Future of Museums: Learning and Engagement

27 March 2019, National Museum of Scotland
Museums Association One-Day Conference

This one-day conference will look at the latest understanding of how adults and children learn, examine historical perspectives on museum learning and engagement, and assess how that might work in the future.

Twenty years after the publication of the influential A Common Wealth: Museums in the Learning Age, how has museum learning developed and how are museums responding to demographic, economic and societal change? How can museums reach out to their communities most effectively given this context?

Advances in theory, the progression of digital innovation and capital investment, and developments in socially engaged practice have all had significant impacts on cultural learning in the last two decades. This conference will consider how museums can respond to these opportunities, as well as asking:

  • What new models of practice can museums learn from?
  • Do we need to decolonise museum learning to take into account different cultural models?
  • What do communities, teachers and educators want and need from museums?
  • How can we make learning and engagement central to our museums?

A diverse range of speakers will present new ideas and perspectives on the future of museum learning and ask challenging questions about how museum learning can contribute to a social justice and cultural rights agenda.

This conference is part of the Museums Association’s Future of Museums series, and will offer an opportunity to debate these issues, discuss what the future holds, and explore how museums can make a positive difference in society.

The event also features the launch of a Museums Association research project into the future of museum learning and engagement. The aim of the research will be to understand what audiences and communities need from museum and to share what innovative learning practice looks like and how it might be applied.

Speakers include:

Stephen Allen, Head of Learning and Programmes, National Museums Scotland
He is responsible for learning provision across NMS and has been involved in the major redevelopment of the National Museum of Scotland. He is a former Chair of the Group for Education in Museums and board member of the Museums Association. He began his career as a secondary school history teacher.

Dominique Bouchard, Head of Learning and Interpretation, English Heritage
Dominique Bouchard has degrees in physics and mathematics and received her DPhil in classical archaeology. She has worked in museums around the world, including Ireland and Hong Kong, and is particularly interested in difficult histories and heritage in divided societies. She is Head of Learning and Interpretation at English Heritage where she also leads Creative Programmes, digital, and EH’s flagship youth engagement programme, Shout Out Loud.

David Anderson, Director General, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museums Wales
David Anderson was appointed to Amgueddfa Cymru as Director General in 2010. Prior to that he was Director of Learning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, having previously worked at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Royal Pavilion and Museum in Brighton. From 2013 to 2015, he was President of the Museums Association.

Kate Fellows, Lifelong Learning Manager, Leeds Museums and Galleries 

Kate’s mission in life is to explore people’s stories. She has worked in museums for over 17 years for a range of organisations from the National Trust, to Harewood House and IWM North, and she is currently the Lifelong Learning Manager for Leeds Museums and Galleries. She was the 2010-11 Learning Fellow on the Clore Cultural Leadership Programme.

Wendy Gallagher, Head of Learning and Engagement, Manchester Museum

Sharon Heal, Director, Museums Association
Sharon is the Director of the Museums Association and chair of the Museum of Homelessness. Sharon will lead a session on creating radical change in the sector.

Mark O’Neill, Museum Consultant
Mark O’Neill is an independent researcher and consultant and Associate Professor, College of Arts, Glasgow University. He was Director of Policy and Research for Glasgow Life from 2009 to 2016, and was previously head of Glasgow Museums.

Gordon Rintoul, Director, National Museums Scotland
Gordon Rintoul has been Director of National Museums Scotland since 2002, leading an £80m masterplan which completed this year.

Lorna Cruickshank, Independent Museums Support Officer, High Life Highland
Lorna Cruickshank is the Independent Museums Support Officer at High Life Highland, most recently collaborating with National Museums Liverpool to develop Highland content for the  “My House of Memories” app. She began her career as curator of two independent museums; Dingwall Museum and the Highland Museum of Childhood.

Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, University of Edinburgh

Melissa Highton is Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at University of Edinburgh. She is also a member of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education. She will reflect on the ways in which digital delivery is changing learning and outreach activities in cultural, heritage and knowledge organisations.

Charlotte Morgan, Museum Manager, Cynon Valley Museum
Charlotte Morgan is the Museum Manager for Cynon Valley Museum, an independent museum which went through an Asset Transfer in 2016-2018. She is responsible for the staff team and over 50 volunteers as well as the strategic plan for the Museum. She is also an MA Rep for Wales and Trustee for the Welsh Museums Federation.

Siobhan McConnachie, Head of Education, National Galleries Scotland

Colleen Watters, Head of Learning and Partnerships, Ulster Museum

Dhikshana Pering, Young People’s Producer, London Borough of Culture 2020
Dhikshana Pering is the young people’s producer at London Borough of Culture 2020 and a Museums Association board member. She was previously manager of young people’s programmes at the London Transport Museum.

Delegates should go to the Lothian Street entrance


Museums Association members
Individual, Corporate or Institutional member - £125      
Individual member: prospective AMA member - £95
Individual member: student, retired, volunteer or unwaged - £55
Non-members - £195

The day will run from 0930 - 1700.

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