Monday 9 July 2012

Conference Update: Waterways Heritage Conference - “A new vision for Waterways Museums” (May 2012)

I received an invitation to facilitate a workshop at Ellesmere Port on “How can museums meet social needs?” I telephoned Peter and queried “have you got the right person? I don”t know anything about museums.” His re-assurance surely meant they could not get anyone else!
On arrival I was met by an ‘army’ of volunteers – administration, catering, guiding. Some were dressed in period costume but they all wore a smile. This wasn’t a museum it was a vibrant venue to bring history alive. The noticeboard was full of events – “knit and natter” alongside the “Youthy theatre” – bringing young and old together naturally.
The day was again a full packed agenda with a variety of quality speakers but it was not about dusty relics it was about people. How people had brought the museum to life and more importantly how it had transformed peoples lives.
Time for my workshop – ½ hour to find the answer but 29 minutes was spent discussing what we meant by social needs!!
The points raised were consolidated for the feedback but a brief summary was 2 elements: people and story telling. The museum holds so many stories about our past but which are relevant to our future. We need people to tell that story, we need people to bring the story to life, different people have different skills, different abilities but they can all come together for different aspects – I learnt a new phrase of “job slicing”.
The summing up included the comments of “giving people a stake in Society – giving them value.”
Before I left I sneaked around the corner to see the Royal Yacht. How appropriate that The Queens accomadation whilst she toured some of the North East waterfronts, which demonstrate how the waterways are breathing economic and social development into some of our more disadvantaged towns and cities, should be moored here reinforcing our vision for the future – people are important.
A tiring but rewarding day. 

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