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The Future of the Museum Conference: Challenging the Conference Concept

Computer screen with Museums Association conference session about Black Lives Matter onscreen.

The Future of the Museum Conference: Challenging the Conference Concept

Computer screen with Museums Association conference session about Black Lives Matter onscreen.

The Museums Association Virtual Conference 2020.


In a time when equality is by far one of the biggest themes for discussion within the arts and heritage sector, we must consider the options for working as a freelancer within the cultural industry. The recently released Museum Freelance Survey (2020) highlights the sheer inequality that freelancers can face when working with organisations. Take a look at the report’s findings here: https://bit.ly/34fr4Ul 

The benefits of freelance working


Working as a freelancer can open the door to working in heritage that may otherwise be closed to a wide range of people. Working around family commitments, managing medical conditions or neuro-divergent conditions or enabling studies to continue have all been reasons that individuals have become freelancers; rather than working full-time in a specific organisation, working freelance may give more scope for a wider variety of individuals to be employed in the sector. The report’s recommendations give some food for thought; of particular interest is the need to provide affordable opportunities for freelancers in terms of training, conferences, and memberships. 

A more accessible future


This year has highlighted the possibility that events and conferences do not need to cost the earth for attendees. Take the MA Conference (2nd to 6th Nov) for example; typically costing hundreds of pounds, this year’s conference is entirely free to members which, considering the MA’s membership changes this year, allows more people than ever the opportunity to engage with the conference. Take a look at the programme here: MA Conference Programme. Of particular note are Monday’s focus on anti-racism and feminist leadership, Tuesday’s museum activism investigation and Thursday’s look to the future with discussions on working post pandemic. 

Culture Geek have released a much-reduced ticket based event for their annual conference (20th Nov) on the use of digital technology in museums. For more information take a look: Culture Geek Website 

The Network of European Museum Organisations team have released their conference (16th-19th Nov) on the challenges facing the sector for free:  https://www.ne-mo.org/about-us/european-museum-conference-2020.html 

Other organisations have recorded their virtual events that happened over the summer, allowing those of us unable to attend the chance to watch them back and take note from the inspirational things discussed. Museum iD is one such of these organisations; take a look at their 2020 Conference recordings here: Museum iD Conference Talks.

The way forward 

Although it looks like next year could see a return to costly conferences, now is the time to challenge the way that we network and discuss – virtual sessions may not quite be the same as face-to-face conversations, but nonetheless, it seems clear that they are far more accessible, opening doors to so many more potential attendees. Now is the time to challenge the perception of the conference to make sure they stay accessible to as many people as possible!

By Hollie Davison, Head of Projects

Read more of our musings on our news page.

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