It’s a busy time for Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) as it consults on the final delivery plan for Scotland’s 10-year national strategy for museums and galleries, for 2020-22.
The development body is inviting staff and volunteers from museums and galleries across Scotland to complete an online survey in order to give it a better insight into what decisions to make over the next three years. It will also be holding a series of events next month to explore the six aims of the national strategy (see box) and address the feedback gathered from the survey, which closes on 7 June. An evaluation of its second delivery plan is also underway.
MGS’s chief executive, Lucy Casot, who joined the organisation in January, says: “The plan must be grounded and current: balancing how we maximise the benefits of record visitor numbers and significant capital investment in the sector with the realities of financial challenges, all while supporting development.”
The national strategy was welcomed as a step forward for Scotland’s museums and galleries when it launched in 2012 – but three quarters of the way through, how well are its aims being met?
“The strategy has had its successes,” says Nicola Wilson, the collections curator at Fife Cultural Trust and a Museums Association (MA) representative for Scotland. “MGS has been particularly successful in leading the way on aim three - empowering a diverse workforce - through the Skills for Success programme, which I hope it continues in the future.”
Wilson believes the strategy needs commitment and input from every museum in the Scottish sector to ensure its success going forward. “I would like MGS to ensure that no museum is left behind and continue to visit and engage with museums and forums throughout the country.”
The Museums Association’s (MA) feedback to the consultation calls on MGS to promote the social impact of museums, saying "there is huge scope for MGS to support and incentivise greater partnership working with third sector organisations, businesses and other cultural organisations".
It adds: “We also believe that MGS can support the sector in Scotland to develop its collections in line with the MA’s Empowering Collections report. MGS’s role as a provider of training, funding, accreditation and recognition schemes means that it has a key role to play in motivating museums to use their collections proactively to engage communities.”
Wilson also believes that museums in Scotland need to shout louder about what they have achieved so far. “I think it's critical for museums to share the wonderful work we are all doing towards the six aims and report these back to MGS, as I think we are all guilty of underselling ourselves.”
An advocacy campaign launched by MGS in the run-up to International Museum Day earlier this month was an attempt to redress that balance. Aimed at both politicians and the public, it included a parliamentary reception in Holyrood that gave museums from across Scotland an opportunity to showcase projects that “create immense public value and helped to make their communities better places to live in”. Museums had an opportunity to showcase their work to MSPs through interactive stands and handling boxes, as well as sharing case studies of innovative projects in areas such as education, health and wellbeing.
In addition to the event, MGS ran an online campaign entitled #MuseumsSparkJoy – a slogan inspired by the popular lifestyle guru Marie Kondo – inviting social media users to share stories and pictures of the inclusive, fun and inspirational experiences they’d had museums.
The delivery plan for the final phase of the strategy will be published in January 2020.
The six aims of the national strategy:
1. Maximise the potential of our collections and culture
2. Strengthen connections between museums, people and places to inspire greater public participation, learning and well-being
3. Empower a diverse workforce to increase their potential for the benefit of the sector and beyond
4. Forge a sustainable future for sector organisations and encourage a culture of enterprise
5. Foster a culture of collaboration
6. Develop a global perspective