Category Archives: Cultural and Heritage Management

What makes a good museum? The Art Fund knows – a guest post by Amy Jane Barnes

Amy Jane BarnesBy Amy Jane Barnes, University of Leicester

This article was originally published on The Conversation.  Read the original article here.

On July 9, the annual Museum of the Year Prize, run by the Museum Prize Trust and sponsored since 2008 by the Art Fund, awarded £100,000 to the winner: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which shone in a shortlist of six museums and galleries.

The prize’s stated aim is to highlight the role of museums in society, to encourage more people to visit and to recognise the very best exhibiting institutions in the UK – but pinning down the characteristics of what the Art Fund calls “truly outstanding” museums is harder than it sounds.

As someone who studies museums, I have strong opinions about what makes a good one. To get my vote, a museum has to be prepared to take some risks, to remain intellectually (and physically) accessible while challenging its audiences. It should present different views and ideas and avoid neutrality, or rather, refrain from perpetuating the myth that the museum (and knowledge) is objective – we know it is not.

Museums with these characteristics are inspiring. They will also probably play a role in society that encompasses, as the UK Museums Association puts it, not simply just the collection, preservation and sharing of collections (although these of course remain core roles).

They will also act as catalysts for community cohesion and regeneration, and be places where social issues can be publicly explored.

What matters?

That said, everyone has a different opinion, as do many of my colleagues. When I asked them what makes a good museum, they all had different answers. It should have a clear identity; it should have an environmental conscience and a commitment to sustainability; it should be innovative and involved with its local community.

This was hardly a scientific poll, of course, but the range of answers I got highlights the considerable impact individual preferences and priorities have on perceptions of what a good museum does.

Pinpointing excellence in the museum sector is a tricky business, and is partly (if not entirely) shaped by the concerns and policies of the day. The Art Fund’s five-person judging panel will select the winner for the Museum of Year Prize, from six shortlisted institutions, each judged to have had a “transformative” effect on their users and audiences.

The big six

The Ditching Museum of Art + Craft in East Sussex presents examples of work by artists and craftspeople who formed a community in the village during the 20th century. In recent years, the museum has undergone major renovation and reopened last year. It has been praised by the judges for its “dedicated learning space” and fully accessible site.

The Hayward Gallery, on London’s Southbank, has been dedicated to displaying contemporary art since its creation in 1968. Its touring programme and exhibitions, which focus on “important issues in contemporary artistic practice”, attracted “record-breaking audiences” in 2013.

Opened to the public in May 2013, the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, houses the remains of Henry VIII’s flagship, sunk in 1545 and recovered in 1982. Its selection recognises the engaging and “intensely personal nature” of the museum’s narrative, which provides visitors with “an inimitable insight into Tudor life”.

The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich, designed by Norman Foster to house the Sainsbury collection of art and artefacts and opened in 1978, relaunched last year after major renovation. The new SCVA features a redisplay of the permanent collection, and new exhibition and retail spaces.

Similarly, the oldest part of Tate Britain was restructured to bring nine galleries up to contemporary standards, and to allow for the creation of new spaces for schools and learning activities. On reopening, visitors were also able to experience a new chronological display of British art.

And finally, the winner: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, which features works by major sculptors from around the world. Among other things, it was highlighted by the judges for “engaging new audiences and providing a unique art experience for hard-to-reach groups” via its learning programmes.

More than money

In addition to the cash prize, Yorkshire Sculpture Park will benefit from an enhanced profile and wider public recognition – and in turn, a more secure future, something the Prize has done for winners before.

Last year’s victor, the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, had been been under threat of closure just six years earlier. But after winning the prize, the gallery experienced a massive increase in visitor numbers, which the local head of cultural services hoped would bring increased funding and stave off the threat of future cuts.

Just as we all came up with different definitions of what makes a “good” museum, I expect me and my colleagues would each have a strong opinion about which of the shortlisted museums most deserves to win the prize. We may not all fully agree with the final decision, but ultimately, anything that gives “immediate national attention” to museums, promotes excellence in the sector, and demonstrates their immense social and cultural value deserves our wholehearted support.

Museum representations of Maoist ChinaThe ConversationAmy Jane Barnes is author of Museum Representations of Maoist China: From Cultural Revolution to Commie Kitsch

Beryl Graham talks at Tate Modern, at the ‘Cultural Value and the Digital’ conference

Posted by Helen Moore, Marketing Manager

Beryl Graham, author of New Collecting: Exhibiting and Audiences after New Media Art gave a talk at the Tate Modern earlier this week, taking part in the conference Cultural value and the digital: practice, policy and theory, the culmination of a research project and series of eight public workshops, to explore how conceptions of cultural value are currently operating and could be examined in relationship to digital media and museums.

This research project focused on Tate’s digital practices and policies as well as the practices of other UK and European Museums that shape contemporary production of culture; a context which is transformed or challenged by current digital technologies and network culture.

New Collecting_Graham PPC_new collectingBeryl Graham’s book New Collecting: Exhibiting and Audiences after New Media Art sets out to explore the many new challenges faced by curators and collectors of new media art

‘This is essential reading for artists, curators, art historians, students and anyone else interested in creating, commissioning, collecting, exhibiting and documenting new media art. The authors provide an excellent overview of the challenges involved in dealing with 21st-century artworks that are “not easy to collect”.’   Douglas Dodds, Victoria and Albert Museum, UK

‘New forms of art production necessitate new ways of thinking about exhibiting and collecting. This book fills a gap in the field by directly addressing the challenge for curators and audiences alike in exploring ways that do not simply replicate old models but redefine possibilities of what is collected, how, and for whom.’   Joasia Krysa, Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark

Beryl Graham is Professor of New Media Art, at the University of Sunderland, UK and co-founder and editor of CRUMB, the resource for curators of new media art. She curated the international exhibition Serious Games for the Laing and Barbican art galleries, and has also worked with The Exploratorium, San Francisco, and San Francisco Camerawork.  Beryl Graham has presented papers at conferences including Decoding the Digital (Victoria and Albert Museum).

Once Upon an Arts Policy – Constance DeVereaux speaking at City University London

Constance DeVereaux, author of Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy, will be speaking at City University London, at 6.30 tonight 4th June. She will also be speaking at University College Dublin on the 6th of June at a public lecture entitled Excellence and Cultural Policy. The lecture in Dublin is an advance presentation for the UCD – IADT ‘Mapping an Altered landscape’ conference on Cultural Policy and Management in Ireland.

About the City University event:

Once Upon an Arts Policy

The use of narrative analysis in policy science gained popularity in the 1990s but has been largely rejected by mainstream policy researchers working in a positivist vein. Narrative methods have been criticized for lack of rigor, clear hypothesis testing, and for difficulties of replication and falsification. Despite traditional social science’s success in providing this rigor, its methods may come up short for use in cultural policy where analysts must account for the inherent messiness of culture. Drawing on her work with co-researcher Martin Griffin in their recent book Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy, Dr. Constance DeVereaux delineates a framework for use by cultural policy researchers with practical application to selected cultural policy issues. These include cultural citizenship and identity, cultural diplomacy, and the proliferation of formal cultural policy documents, which have been used-simultaneously-as articulations of value, as procedural documents, and (more recently) as branding and marketing tools. In so doing, this paper demonstrates the possibilities for application of narrative modes, tale types, and frameworks as a new set of tools for cultural policy analysts.

Narrative identity and the map of cultural policyAbout Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy:

‘DeVereaux and Griffin present a persuasive argument that cultural policy is located within a framework of different narratives that may be neither recognized nor understood. The book is a good “read;” full of fascinating stories and makes an important contribution to cultural policy studies particularly with the combining and interplay of the writers’ two disciplines.’   Jo Caust, University of Melbourne, Australia

‘Inspired by the pleasures of storytelling, the authors bring a fresh new approach to cultural policy inquiry, identifying narrative as an essential component of human thought and interaction. In an exciting manner they show the connections between narrative and identity, discovering new stories which reveal the impact of globalization and transnationalism within cultural policy discourse and practices. Advocating interpretive method in cultural policy analysis, the authors reveal the value of narrative in investigating and understanding contemporary cultural policy systems.’   Milena Dragicevic Šešic, University of Arts, Belgrade, Serbia

The story of arts and cultural policy in the twenty-first century is inherently of global concern no matter how local it seems. At the same time, questions of identity have in many ways become more challenging than before. Narrative, Identity, and the Map of Cultural Policy: Once Upon a Time in a Globalized World explores how and why stories and identities sometimes merge and often clash in an arena in which culture and policy may not be able to resolve every difficulty. DeVereaux and Griffin argue that the role of narrative is key to understanding these issues. They offer a wide-ranging history and justification for narrative frameworks as an approach to cultural policy and open up a wider field of discussion about the ways in which cultural politics and cultural identity are being deployed and interpreted in the present, with deep roots in the past. This timely book will be of great interest not just to students of narrative and students of arts and cultural policy, but also to administrators, policy theorists, and cultural management practitioners.

About the Authors:

Constance DeVereaux is Associate Professor in the LEAP Institute for the Arts at Colorado State University. She served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Arts/Cultural Policy and Arts/Cultural Management at universities in Finland, South Africa, and Romania and has worked with municipalities in developing policies for cultural development. She has published internationally on topics relating to cultural policy and the discourse of practice. She co-organized the international symposium series Cultural Management and the State of the Field and is editor of the publication series of the same title.

Martin Griffin is associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Among the topics that interest him are the role played by narrative in cross-cultural exchange, and the relationship between literary culture and diplomacy in American history. He is the author of Ashes of the Mind: War and Memory in Northern Literature, 1865-1900 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009) and is currently working on an edited collection of essays entitled American Political Fictions.

Museum Studies, Heritage and Cultural Management – new books in 2014

Posted by Dymphna Evans, Publisher

We live in challenging times and the range of topics covered by our 2014 list suggests how museums and cultural institutions are responding to new economic, artistic and ethical challenges. We have new titles on challenging and contested heritage, including Challenging History in the Museum, Cultural Heritage in the Arabian Peninsula, Education, Values and Ethics in International Heritage, Museums and Restitution, and two new titles on museums and migration Migrating Heritage and The Postcolonial Museum.

Challenging History in the Museum Cultural Heritage in the Arabian Peninsula Education Values and Ethics Migrating Heritage Postcolonial Museum

In the area of new media and audience response, we are very pleased to be publishing a key book by Jenny Kidd: Museums in the New Mediascape which examines digital media work in the museum and questions what constitutes authentic participation.

In Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage, the authors show how crowdsourcing as a form of engagement with the collections and research of museums and archives benefits both audiences and institutions and how successful crowdsourcing projects reflect a commitment to developing effective interface and technical designs. Beryl Graham’s New Collecting: Exhibiting and Audiences after New Media Art navigates through the challenges of curating and collecting new media art and also how to integrate the consideration of audience response. In Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum the authors discuss how artists’ engagement with the museum has shifted towards interventions in non-art museums and that central to these interventions is the challenge to better connect the museum and its public.

museum-studies-2014Ashgate’s new 2014 Museum Studies, Heritage and Cultural Management catalogue is now available, and you can take a look at it here.

Museums and Public Value – a guest post from Carol Scott

This is a guest post from Carol Scott, editor of ‘Museums and Public Value: creating sustainable futures’. It was originally published on Carol’s website Carol Scott Associates.

Museums and public valueI decided to begin this blog by focusing on a project which has been my passion for the last two years. In May this year, I published a book titled ‘Museums and Public Value: creating sustainable futures’. Contributing authors from the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand worked with me, sharing their expertise and insights on a range of subjects related to public value.

I wanted to do the book because it seemed to me that Mark Moore’s theory and model of Public Value speaks to our time and, particularly to the role of museums in creating positive social change.

Let’s start with some definitions.

‘Public Value’ is defined as activity undertaken in the general public interest and realised in the public sphere. For Moore, the creation of public value should focus on ‘unmet social needs’ – conditions to be ameliorated, problems to be solved and rights to be vindicated (Moore 2007). This directs us towards compelling social issues of race, class, cultural identity, equality and our relationship with the natural world.

And who is the public? The defining characteristic is that it refers to people in their role as citizens with an interest in issues affecting our common good.

Museums can create value that contributes to the common good. But value creation does not happen in a vacuum. Museums are part of a universe of relationships that have a stake in the value we create. Moore has developed a ‘strategic triangle’ (1995) that maps the relationship between three major players in the creation of public value.

(a) The first is what he calls the authorizing environment, policy makers, funders and stakeholders who have the power to grant or refuse approvals and to provide or withhold funding for work that we want to do;

(b) The second is the operational environment (in this case, the museum) – where the combined forces of mission, purpose, leadership, planning, human resources, collections and funding can be directed to create and deliver value and

(c) The third is the public, those citizens who are the recipients of the value museum create but who can also be co-producers in the creation of value.

Moore’s model of Public Value is not only helpful in mapping this universe of relationships. It is based on a set of principles that merit our attention:

  • It appreciates that today’s public sector organisations work within a dynamic and changing environment
  • It acknowledges that museums do not work in isolation. We are connected – to funders, stakeholders, policy makers and the public – and we owe each of them varying levels of accountability
  • It focuses on the goals that we hold in common as citizens
  • It recognises that the creation of public value is intentional and involves conscious decision-making
  • It views our leaders as proactive stewards of public assets, capable of directing those assets purposefully to make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

In the next few weeks, you will meet some of my Museums and Public Value co-authors. They will be guest bloggers on a range of subjects that address issues of public value creation from the museum point of view. Watch this space!

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About Carol Scott:

“My passion as a museum consultant is to see the value of museums recognized by important decision-makers and celebrated by the public.”

Carol A. Scott lives in London and works with museum leaders in the UK, Europe, North America and Australasia, using value as a core concept in planning, branding, audience engagement, measurement and funding. She is recognised internationally for her expertise in this area and is in demand as a conference presenter and thought leader. Her writing on museums and value has been published in Curator: The Museum Journal, Museum Management and Curatorship, Cultural Trends and the International Journal of Arts Management.

Contributing authors: Mark L. Weinberg; Kate Leeman; Randi Korn; Mary Ellen Munley; Mike Houlihan; Ben Garcia; David Spence; Tom Wareham; Caroline Bressey; June Bam-Hutchison; Annette Day; Lisa Conolly; Marsha L. Semmel; David O’Brien; Sharon Heal; Joanne Orr.

Ashgate at the Museums Association conference 2013, Liverpool

Dymphna Evans and Helen Moore are attending the Museums Association conference in Liverpool next week, 11-12th November.

Please visit us on stand 3, see our latest books, meet our authors and chat about any ideas you might have for book proposals. There will be a daily prize draw to win a book of your choice, huge discounts on display copies and more free treats, so please come a say ‘hello’.

Museums Association delegates are entitled to a 30% discount on a range of Museums Studies, Cultural and Heritage Management books, but if you’re unable to attend, we are extending the discount for a limited period. Take advantage of the conference discount at www.ashgate.com/MALiverpool.

New books which will be on display include:

Museums, Health and Well-Being (Helen Chatterjee, University College London and Guy Noble, University College London Hospitals)

Curious Lessons in the Museum: The Pedagogic Potential of Artists’ Interventions (Claire Robins, Institute of Education, University of London)

Museums and Public Value: Creating Sustainable Futures (Edited by Carol A. Scott, Carol Scott Associates)

Museums Health and Welleing Curious Lessons in the Museum Museums and Public Value

We’re looking forward to meeting you in Liverpool!

Museums and Public Value

Originally posted on Intentional Museum:

Museums and Public ValueThis week we welcome our guest blogger Carol Ann Scott, editor of Museums and Public Value: Creating Sustainable Futures!

Randi Korn & Associates invited me to guest blog on a subject that has important links to intentionality. My passion is the value of museums- how we articulate that value, measure it and create it. So today, I am blogging about the third aspect- the value we create. With that in mind, I want to look at what Mark Moore’s theory of Public Value has to offer museums when we purposefully set out to create value.

Moore’s Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government (1995) may be familiar to many of you. In Moore’s view, publically funded organisations are charged with directing their assets to creating value with a strong focus on social change and improvement. This type of value is about more than visitor satisfaction. It is directed…

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