The mobile museum

Staffordshire County Council

Jean Reed, 15.04.2013
In 2010, Staffordshire County Council’s museum service worked with the prison library service, which serves seven prisons, to look at ways engagement with museum collections could benefit young offenders.

This was funded by the Museum, Libraries and Archive Council’s Learning Links programme.

Following reciprocal visits to learn about each other’s areas of work, it was decided that the Museum on the Move, a partnership programme managed by the five county museum services in the West Midlands, was an ideal way to offer the young offenders an opportunity to engage with museum objects.  

Exhibitions change annually and are designed to be interactive. They are staffed by interpreters experienced at delivering formal and informal sessions to a wide variety of audiences.

Getting a vehicle into a prison is not an easy task (the first question is “will it fit through the gates?”) and involved many detailed discussions with the prisons’ security staff.

Once permission was granted, library staff worked closely with departments in the prison to draw up a timetable, arrange escorts for the groups and to raise awareness of the visit throughout the establishment.

The Museum on the Move was a manageable and accessible introduction to museums for young offenders; for many it was their first museum visit, and they valued the opportunity to engage with non-prison staff.

Many of the young offenders commented that it was the first time they had visited a museum and they appreciated the chance to “do something different”.  

The partnership between museum and prison library staff has continued to develop with the mobile museum visiting adult prisons during 2011/12. We are in the early stages of planning visits to young offender institutions and adult prisons during 2013/14.

Jean Reed is the prison library service adviser (young offender institutions) at Staffordshire County Council’s Library and Information Service