David Rounce

Q&A with David Rounce

Simon Stephens, 02.06.2015
Helping Scarborough Museums Trust to engage audiences
David Rounce has joined the Scarborough Museums Trust (SMT) to help the organisation engage more with its community through the Mapping the Museum project.

The initiative, funded by Art Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund, will involve gathering information in various ways, including visitor surveys, focus groups and interviews. The trust has two venues, the Rotunda Museum and Scarborough Art Gallery.

Rounce has joined the organisation from Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, in County Durham.

How will you go about helping the trust engage more with its community?

I’m involved with the first stages of SMT’s Mapping the Museum resilience project, so my key role is to engage with the trust’s stakeholders across the community and discuss through a series of questionnaires and focus groups how we can work together to create sustainable and mutually-beneficial working relationships.

The findings from the consultation will inform the development of our future plans and, we hope, lead to the diversification of our audience.

I’m particularly excited that the year will culminate in the trust producing a stakeholder-led pop-up museum, which will tour the community.
Can you tell us a bit about what the trust's two venues?

We’re lucky to have two very different attractions; the art gallery is in the beautiful Crescent Gardens in the centre of Scarborough and contains permanent displays of well-known artists such as Atkinson Grimshaw, Frank Mason and Frank Brangwyn.

It also hosts four different exhibitions a year, chosen to reflect the eclectic mix of the community and cultural heritage of the town.

Then we’ve got the Rotunda Museum, which is near the seafront and was built in 1829 to a design suggested by William Smith, known as the father of English geology.

The Rotunda is home to geological and paleontological displays including dinosaur footprints and the skeleton of a plesiosaur, and also boasts Gristhorpe Man, commonly held as the UK’s best example of a bronze age man.
And what types of visitors are attracted to the museums?

At the moment it varies between the venues – the Rotunda attracts local and visiting families, while the gallery is predominantly visited by older residents.

With this project we’re aiming to broaden our appeal while being careful to not compromise what makes us special for current visitors.

What areas of your past experience do you think will be most useful in your new job?

Ah, this harkens back to the job interview! I began my career as assistant curator in a small independent museum, the Yorkshire Museum of Farming in York, where it was vital for us to build working relationships with local businesses, interest groups, volunteers and of course the visitors to sustain and develop the organisation.

At the other end of the scale I’ve been heavily involved in Beamish’s 20th-century collecting project, going out into communities doing everything from picking up wardrobes to showing Girl Guides how to make wartime recipes.

Beyond the museum world I’ve appeared with a number of large and small-scale community theatre groups since school, and feel sure my performance skills will come in handy over the project.