Debating in Doncaster

Simon Stephens, 30.04.2014
Yorkshire members' meeting
We had the first in our series of new-look Museums Association (MA) members' meetings this week, which was kindly hosted by Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

These meetings now take place from 4pm-8pm, which means people don't have to leave their desks for a whole day but still get the chance to chat with MA staff, network with other members, and see the museum that is hosting the event.

The main points of discussion for Yorkshire members centred on the MA's Museums Change Lives campaign and a plan to widen the MA's ethical remit beyond collections.

Both discussions generated debate and gave some important feedback to the MA.

Another issue raised was the vital relationship that museums have with local authorities and the role that the MA can play within this.

On the ethics side, we looked at a whole host of areas related to museums' ethical responsibilities to staff and visitors. This took in outreach work, volunteers, commercial activities and lots more.

Those who attended the meeting also had the chance to look around Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery and see its temporary exhibition celebrating the centenary of Doncaster-born artist Edgar Holloway.

While looking at some of the other displays in the museum I noticed a large work painted in 1885, A Yearling Sale at Doncaster (the town has an important horseracing course).

It features 149 figures and was a concept that I'm sure many people know but I was unaware of: subscription painting, where everyone in the painting pays to be depicted. The more you pay, the more prominent your position.

I wonder if the concept of subscription painting could be used as a fundraising idea for today's museums and galleries, although maybe it's one that the MA's ethics campaign would also have to look into.