The policy column

Sharon Heal, Issue 119/03, 01.03.2019
Learning must be at the heart of all that we do
The world has changed since David Anderson’s report, A Common Wealth – Museums in the Learning Age, was published in 1997.  

Inequality and poverty have increased, along with the negative impacts on the life chances of children and adults in the UK’s least-advantaged areas. Brexit has split communities and led to political and economic uncertainty.
Cuts in public funding mean schools and colleges have less capacity to engage in cultural activity, and museums and galleries have shrinking resources to reach out to communities.
There have also been huge gains in technology, learning and teaching methodologies, and our understanding of how people learn. Museums have been transformed by digital innovation and capital investment in learning spaces. Many have more meaningful connections with the public.  

It is in this context that the Museums Association is undertaking research to map the state of museum learning and engagement, and identify future actions. We have organised four roundtables to kick the research off and there will be lots of opportunities to get involved.
Our aims are to understand what audiences/communities need from museums; to make recommendations for policy and practice in each of the four nations; to understand what innovative learning practice looks like and how it might be applied; and, most importantly, to bring about culture change to put learning and engagement at the core of what we do.
Sharon Heal is the director of the Museums Association