The policy column - Museums Association

The policy column

We can all learn from each other
Richard Sandell
What does it mean to think and work internationally? How might the Museums Association (MA) take forward its international work ethically and in ways that support the sector and its members, bringing mutual benefit to all partners?

This year’s conference provided lots of stimulus for the MA’s discussions around these vital questions, with more delegates and speakers from a wider range of countries than ever before.

Innovation and development in the UK museum sector are of considerable interest to policy makers and practitioners abroad. The MA’s work on collections, ethics, sustainability and workforce and, more recently, Museums Change Lives, has generated enormous interest in many parts of the world.

The current re-examination of ethics fit for purpose in the 21st century promises to attract further attention, as museums in widely different contexts grapple with evolving ethical challenges.

There is a long tradition in the UK sector of looking overseas for inspiration, expertise and partnerships. Indeed, the MA has fostered international relationships since its inception.

In his recent doctoral thesis at the University of Leicester – an analysis of the factors that shaped the emergence of the MA and its equivalent body in Japan – Masanori Oki discusses the MA’s practice of international exchange dating back to the late 19th century, when papers from experts in other countries were invited for presentation at its AGM.

This commitment to learning from others will continue to shape our approach as we take forward our international work.

Richard Sandell is a professor of museum studies at the University of Leicester and a member of the MA board

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