Changing lives at conference

Alistair Brown, 07.10.2014
Focus on Museums Change Lives at Cardiff 2014
Conference is upon us! And what a line-up we have for you.

The conference theme this year is Museums Change Lives, and there will be some heavyweight interventions on the topic of social impact. From David Anderson’s keynote address on Thursday morning to Antônio Vieira’s insights into how his Museu da Maré in Rio de Janeiro has changed lives in a Brazilian favela, we’ll be hearing about how to drive forward the MA’s campaign.

There are some serious issues to discuss in the four Museums Change Lives panel discussions across the two days. How can museums deliver social impact in the face of reduced budgets? How far should museums go in encouraging active public participation in the design and direction of our museums? How can our code of ethics best protect and enable museums in the years ahead? And how should we go about demonstrating and measuring social impact to funders and policy-makers?

I’m really keen to hear views from across the sector on these issues. It’s a great opportunity for members to influence the campaign over the next year, so do come along to these sessions to tell us what you think and share examples of where your museum has made a difference.

You’ll also have the opportunity throughout conference to sign our Museums Change Lives pledge cards to show your support for the campaign. Some of the MA regional and national representatives and I will be collecting these after the opening speeches on Thursday morning and at the Museums Change Lives events throughout the conference programme, so come and say hello.

Another important aspect of conference is the international dimension. Earlier this week I attended a reception held by the Estonian Embassy, which has a large delegation of museum directors attending the conference. They’re coming – along with representatives from at least 16 other countries around the world – to make links with British museums and to learn from our approach.

That makes it our most international conference to date, and I think it’s a really positive sign that so many other countries are looking to UK institutions to help grow their cultural diplomacy and cultural development.

There’s a special reception for international delegates on Thursday morning at 9.45am, and a UK Trade and Investment session on Thursday afternoon – but I’d encourage all delegates to use the opportunities throughout conference to forge new links with museums abroad.

And finally, as a first-timer at conference, I’m also excited to meet others who are attending for the first time. For the early-risers among you, there’s a first time delegates’ breakfast on Thursday morning from 7.45am-8.45am. See you there, with several litres of coffee!

Alistair Brown is the MA's policy officer. Follow him on Twitter @acbrown511


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Laura Crossley
MA Member
Heritage Consultant & PHD Researcher, University of Leicester
07.10.2014, 20:57
Really interesting blog. I'm looking forward to hearing, and participating in, discussions about the social impact of museums at the conference.
My PhD research is increasingly looking at how museums of all shapes and sizes are delivering social impact in the face of financial cuts. In fact, I'm presenting on this at the Museums Alive! conference this November ( I'm finding that the cuts are encouraging/forcing (perhaps both!) museum professionals to really consider how important changing lives is to the mission of their museum and, if it is, finding ways to embed this ethos into the heart of their museum so that this work is done no matter how much money is available. Although I'd never advocate for cuts (!), I don't think it's a bad thing that museums appear to be embedding social impact into their daily practice rather than seeing it as a bolt on that happens if funding is available.