What are the challenges facing museum development officers?
Museums Association
Katie Hobbs, the museum development officer, Surrey and East and West Sussex

“One of the challenges for an MDO is anticipating how the 40% and 25% cuts will play out in the short and long term, when they will hit different museum types and how to give the best strategic support to such a diverse set of museums.

Challenging museums and individuals to develop a clearer understanding of their purpose and to be more imaginative and creative is a hard ask against this background of cuts.
I urge museums not to wait for the axe to fall, but to ensure they communicate a strong sense of purpose and vision, and try to see the opportunities in change.”

Helen Bradley heritage development officer, Conwy County Borough Council

“The current priority is demonstrating how museums contribute to tackling poverty and promoting social inclusion.

As MDOs, we know that we do this well and, as a sector, we are getting better at advocacy.
But from a local authority perspective, especially during a time of stringent cuts and with local government reorganisation looming, it is more crucial than ever that my service delivers real, impactful objectives against tackling poverty.
That’s why we have produced an advocacy paper to raise the service’s profile and highlight the difference we make.”

Gemma Dhami, the learning, volunteering and partnerships manager, Museums Worcestershire, and an ex-MDO

“Museum development sits in a strange place between what is happening on the ground and national strategy.
This causes some of the main  issues, but makes it interesting. You can only guide museums to reach their potential, and trying to build flexibility into a project to ensure you can adapt to changing museum needs can be complicated.
A challenge many MDOs face is the length of time it takes to make things happen.
There also needs to be trust and understanding with museums, which does not happen overnight.”

Lynsey Jones, the museum development officer, Museum Development North West

“Some MDO challenges run parallel to those for museums – supporting them in making the most effective use of limited resources, with less regional strategic support than before.

We still have a key role in providing the specialist knowledge and training always needed. But ours is a brokering role.

We must involve ourselves in museums to know where the specialist knowledge lies (be it subject or commercial) but we cannot embed ourselves to the extent that museums become dependent on us. We have to foster a culture of self-reliance."

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