Nazia Ali: resilience

Transformers case study
ActiveCurating is a socially responsible approach to museum curating.

The development of the ActiveCurating project is a response to the challenges that are being faced in Birmingham today. This includes rapid political and socio-economic challenges, as well as fundamental changes in Birmingham museum funding and governance.

In the development of the project, Nazia Ali, a curator at Birmingham Museums Trust, conducted qualitative research of curatorial practices both internally and externally.

Ali also researched the socio-economic and political issues that Birmingham is currently facing.

This research led to the hypothesis that curatorial practices in Birmingham will need to adapt in order to meet the diverse challenges that Birmingham and its museums are facing. To address this need, Ali began to develop a model for alternative curatorial practices, and this resulted in the ActiveCurating model.

In the delivery stage of this project (made possible by the Transformers micro-fund) Ali was able to turn theory into practice and to test the ActiveCurating model in current and new projects.

Two months into the delivery stage, the Transformers project faced a major risk due to organisational changes within Birmingham Museums Trust.

The outcome of these changes has affected the delivery of the original project, and has resulted in a partial redesign of the project activities.

Ali said: "This has been a challenging phase, but as highlighted in the residential training courses, making transformative change in one’s work will always face risk, but being able to adapt to those risks is the key to success."

Currently, ActiveCurating is being integrated within all Ali’s curatorial projects, and the model continues to be adapted for better use and application.

Over the next few months, the ActiveCurating principle will begin to be applied in a major capital project – Birmingham’s HLF Collecting Cultures project.

The outcomes of Transformers ActiveCurating includes a more socially responsible change in the way collections are curated in Birmingham; greater advocacy and relationship building with other museums and organisations; and Ali’s continued professional development and a progression in Ali’s ability to advocate change.

Ali said: "Looking ahead, with the tools that Transformers has provided (coaching, residential training, funding, networking), and with the impetus of the Museums Change Lives vision, I aim to continue to advocate this fundamental change in curatorial practice throughout the museum sector."