Thinking small

Sharon Heal, 20.05.2015
How the MA can help small museums and lone curators
I had the pleasure of attending the interesting if intriguingly-titled Noba conference in Cambridgeshire recently.

Noba is the Not Only But Also group of lone curators brought together by Share Museums East.

The group comes together to network, share leadership concerns and support each other and I was there to talk about my own journey into leadership and also how the Museums Association (MA) can contribute to supporting smaller museums.

I was impressed by the diversity of museums represented at the event, from the John Bunyan Museum to the Panacea Museum and the Essex Police Museum. All very different but with many of the issues that they face in common.

Naturally a lot of these issues focus on governance, volunteer management, limited resources and capacity.

Feedback from delegates about what the MA could do for them and where they saw themselves in the wider sector was useful. Affordable and relevant practical advice and professional development opportunities are crucial and we are currently reviewing what we offer in this area.

As lone curators they were also keen for networking opportunities and a chance to explore what is happening in the wider sector as well as share their own examples of best practice.

As the best educationalists know, learning is not a one way street and these smaller museums and the people who work in them have much that they can teach others.

So what can the MA do for smaller museums?

The MA is in a unique position to represent the concerns of the whole sector from small volunteer-run museums to nationals throughout the UK. And we are actively working with other organisations such as the Association of Independent Museums and the National Museum Directors’ Council to make the case to politicians and funders.

At a practical level our conference brings together the biggest and most diverse group of people that work in museums across the UK. This year we will be repeating our discount from last year for staff from smaller institutions - look out for the offer which will be announced through our website and social media shortly.

Across the nations and regions we regularly hold members’ meetings and consultation events on policy initiatives, such as our review of our Code of Ethics.

In terms of practical advice, Museum Practice is an invaluable resource that covers many of the issues that smaller (and other) museums currently face, from crowdsourcing funding to volunteer management and recruitment - and look out for a forthcoming issue on governance.

Follow Sharon on Twitter @SharonHeal