Guide | How to facilitate participatory discussions - Museums Association

Guide | How to facilitate participatory discussions

Three different co-production models for museums
Caroline Butterwick
People’s History Museum worked with community curators to develop its exhibition, Nothing About Us Without Us

1. Project-focused advisory group

A project-focused group gives insight and support on a specific exhibition or area of development. At Dundee Heritage Trust, a group for young people was set up to focus on creatively engaging with the Discovery Point museum’s polar collection.

Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation through the Museums Association until 2024, the group brings together 15-21-year-olds who may face intersectional barriers to participating in the cultural sector, including disability.

2. Steering Groups


A steering group tends to be longer term than a project-focused group, and gives input on ongoing changes and projects at a museum. An example is the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ Access Advisory Group, which has been running since 2007.

The group – which has 12 members and a chair – is made
up of local people with lived experience of disability who are interested in museums and making them more accessible physically and intellectually.

“The group exists to critically advise the museum from an access perspective on various projects, from building a new website to large-scale capital redevelopment projects,” says Isaac Palmer, the Horniman’s community engagement coordinator.

“Particularly for capital projects, the group’s role isn’t one-off consultation but involvement throughout unfolding stages of change. Designers will come back regularly to present the latest plans and actions since the previous meeting. This is crucial to embedding access at all stages and also increasing accountability.”

3. Community curators

Another approach is to involve disabled people as community curators. Alongside a steering group of disabled people, the People’s History Museum in Manchester recruited four disabled community curators who curated and researched the Nothing About Us Without Us project and exhibition.

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