The policy column

Maurice Davies, Issue 114/03, p17, 01.03.2014
Why not take 'impact' as a starting point?
At Museums Change Lives workshops, it is always interesting when participants explore the idea of a museum’s impact.

We know they can have a wide range of benefits. Key areas include impacts on learning, on health and wellbeing, on community cohesion and on economic activity.

However, it is still quite unusual for museums to start by thinking about the impact they want to have. Usually, they start by thinking about their assets of collections, skills, knowledge, buildings and networks, and then consider what impacts they may be able to make.

Museums Change Lives has a different approach. It suggests that there might be merit in museums first identifying the impacts they want to have on people and places, then identifying who they could work with to deliver the impact. Only then should they determine how to use their collections and other assets to achieve the impacts.

Participants in Museums Change Lives workshops tend to find that challenging but stimulating. They often come up with some great ideas.

At a workshop I ran in Manchester last month in partnership with the North West Federation of Museums, almost 50 people began to get to grips with the idea of impact and come up with practical ideas to take back to their own museums.

The next workshop is as part of the Museums Association members’ meeting in Canterbury on 21 March. It’s free, so why not book a place and come along.

The following week, on 25 March, there is an opportunity to explore some of the ideas in Museums Change Lives in more depth at a Museum Practice seminar in Newcastle on how museum can contribute to health and wellbeing. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Maurice Davies is the head of policy and communication at the Museums Association