A baker at St Fagans, part of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, hosts a food festival to bring in tourists

St Fagans National History Museum

The role of participatory forums in the museum's redevelopment
Extensive public engagement is helping to shape the St Fagans National History Museum redevelopment.

Participatory forums that represent different key audience groups work with the museum to develop gallery content and learning programmes, and influence architectural and gallery design.

Over the next decade, the aim of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (NMW) is to position St Fagans National History Museum as the most important national and international centre for the enjoyment, understanding and study of the lives of the peoples of Wales.

The museum is undergoing a major redevelopment funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and – as a museum of the people, for the people – it has been vital that St Fagan’s achieves its potential to reach all the people of Wales, be culturally democratic and driven by the social needs of contemporary Wales.

As part of this, the museum has set up nine participatory forums representing different key audience groups. Participants are priority audiences and key partner organisations, as well as under-represented groups.

These community partners are ambassadors and champions for the museum, advocating for collaborative working partnerships throughout the redevelopment and beyond.

Activities, which were tailored for each group, have resulted in participants working with the museum to develop gallery content, learning programmes and influencing architectural and gallery design. They also identified many barriers to access, which the museum will now work to address.

Lee Kabza of the Caerphilly Youth Forum said: “Young people have really enjoyed working alongside the design team and the architects over the last two years. What an opportunity they have had. The process has raised their aspirations. Some are even thinking of going into design as a career now.”

Elsewhere, St Fagans is involved in the Our Museum initiative, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. It aims to help museums build long-term and sustainable partnerships with the communities they serve, and undergo the necessary organisational change to achieve these.

The scheme awarded St Fagans £148,600 in March 2012 to create and sustain a community of volunteers for St Fagans based on the needs of the volunteers, not the museum.

The aim is to achieve a culture change in skills development and working practices that will broaden the volunteer base and embed opportunities for volunteers in all aspects of the museum's work.

One participant said: “[I’ve] learned a lot about the project and am impressed by the strong teamworking approach. I've seen plenty of 'partnerships' that aren't really partnerships and this has the genuine evolving and working together ethos that makes partnerships work - flexibility, mutual listening and reflective learning as the project goes along.”

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