The National Programmes team hosted a major annual conference at the British Museum as part of the Knowledge Share programme, supported by the Vivmar Foundation from 2010 to 2022.
A sector-facing event, the National Programmes Conference sought to explore key subjects and issues affecting UK museums and cultural heritage.
It explored a new topic each year, aiming to be timely, useful and relevant to a wide audience of professionals in different disciplines from museums and galleries across the UK.
Knowledge Share Events
Our online events for 2022 focused on young people in the museum and heritage sector workforce, and what we've learned from key initiatives made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
- Museum Futures Summit
The Museum Futures Summit was a one-day online conference to celebrate and learn from 10 years of Heritage Fund Skills for the Future programming, which included the British Museum's programme, Museum Futures, as well as dozens of traineeships across the UK.
The Museum Futures Summit aimed to explore the impact and key learning outcomes of paid entry-level training programmes – including traineeships, apprenticeships, fellowships, and Kickstart placements – designed to increase representation and accessibility within the cultural heritage sector workforce.
Take a look at the Museum Futures Summit playlist on YouTube.
- Dynamic Collections and Kick the Dust
The British Museum National Programmes team hosted this online discussion event in collaboration with the Heritage Fund, focusing on young people, collections and the process of making change. We heard from staff and young people involved in three ambitious Kick the Dust projects:
- Our Shared Cultural Heritage – Manchester Museum and the British Council
- Shout Out Loud – English Heritage
- Hands on Heritage – Amgueddfa Cymru | National Museum Wales
Speakers shared how young people have created more dynamic collections, and how museums and heritage sites have made this possible through meaningful, embedded change.
Watch Dynamic Collections and Kick the Dust on YouTube.
- Museum Futures Speed Mentoring
This free online speed mentoring session offered young people and early-career museum professionals the opportunity to practice networking and get some friendly career advice. Aimed at former and current trainees, Kickstart employees, young freelancers and apprentices, the session brought attendees together with nearly 50 mentors from a wide range of roles, organisations and backgrounds across the sector.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the National Programmes Conference could not go ahead in 2020. Instead, the National Programmes team hosted a series of free online events in 2021.
These events sought to build on some of the conversations held at the National Programmes Conference 2019, which explored equality and diversity in UK museum practice and covered a wide range of topics and subject areas: highlighting issues of representation, authority and power with particular focus on class, disability, gender, race and sexuality.
The online programme was similarly varied, with several speakers returning from the 2019 conference. Taking the overarching theme of change, the series looked ahead to the changes that colleagues hoped for in the sector, and reflected on a year of profound and tumultuous change for everyone.
- Psychological First Aid – Supporting People in Mental or Emotional Distress
An introduction to Psychological First Aid, the World Health Organisation tool for addressing the basic physical and psychosocial needs of people in a humanitarian aid or disaster setting. This session, delivered by mental health and trauma rehabilitation consultant Dr Richard Castle, explored how museum staff might use this to support themselves, audiences and participants in their work.
- Going Virtual: Moving outreach work online during the COVID-19 pandemic
Lynsey Gillespie and Dr Laura Aguiar from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland discussed how they moved all their Making the Future community engagement programmes online. Laura and Lynsey shared the issues these projects have raised in relation to memory collection, preservation and access, and explored the power of online technology and archives in strengthening relationships with communities.
Watch Going Virtual: Moving outreach work online during the COVID-19 pandemic on YouTube.
- Colonial Countryside: Heritage research and 'cancel culture'
An in conversation event with Professor Corinne Fowler and Dr Yewande Okuleye, discussing the National Trust's Colonial Countryside project. Corinne and Yewande looked at changes in the museum and heritage sector this past year, including the risks and bravery required to take an honest look at the history of colonialism and racial inequality.
- Keeping Change Moving: Continuing lessons from the MA's Transformers programme
Mark Barrett and Dr Mercy McCann discussed the Museums' Association Transformers programme, and how its methodology and evaluation results might help the sector keep ideas for change in motion despite current social and sectoral challenges.
- Museum Careers Unlocked: Getting your foot in the door
An in-conversation event led by the British Museum Youth Collective, with members of the Youth Collective interviewing speakers from sector networks Museum as Muck and Museum Detox. The conversation focused on museum careers and the process of 'breaking into' the sector as a young person.
Watch Museum careers unlocked: getting your foot in the door on YouTube.
- Fair Museum Jobs: Better recruitment, better sector
Fair Museum Jobs led an interactive session on museum careers, reflecting on their 2020 Careers Summit, and exploring some of the issues in museum job recruitment which impact the equitability of the sector.
- Re-imagining museums as caring places
Kairos Women+, Who Cares? Scotland and Paisley Museum hosted a session exploring collaboration as part of the transformative Paisley Museum Re-imagined project. Speakers explored how the partnership between Paisley Museum and Kairos Women+ has influenced their practice, and discussed what they have learned from the museum's collaboration with Who Cares? Scotland about how to create a caring museum.
Watch Re-imagining museums as caring places on YouTube.
- Museum Remix: An experiment in museum storytelling
University of Cambridge Museums hosted a discussion on developments with their Museum Remix project, their experiment in museum storytelling. The project has worked with audiences through creative workshops and online to explore how museums can become more inclusive and relevant spaces, and try out innovative ways to tell stories about their collections.
Watch Museum Remix: An experiment in museum storytelling on YouTube.
- Museum Space Invaders: How to unlock your power
Museum Space Invaders hosted an interactive session on gender equality and feminist leadership in museums, and how individuals can make a difference. We heard from women leaders and Museum Space Invaders, including Museums Association Director Sharon Heal, Space Invaders Co-Founder Melissa Strauss, and a keynote from Dhikshana Turakhia Pering, Head of Engagement & Skills at Somerset House.
Watch Museum Space Invaders: How to unlock your power on YouTube.
- Archival Research and Therapeutic Practice: Interrogating fact and feeling when working on topics relating to racism, colonialism and empire
The National Archives led an interactive session with Stillpoint Spaces and the Black, African and Asian Therapists Network on using therapeutic practice to hold space for 'difficult' conversations around subjects like racism, colonialism and empire.
Watch Archival research and therapeutic practice on YouTube.
- Museum as Muck: Know your workforce
An event designed for leaders and decision-makers in museums and arts organisations who wish to better understand how to recruit and support working class team members. Museum as Muck steering committee members shared the network's new research, providing detailed insights from the lived experiences of working class museum colleagues, and ideas on how museums can build the foundations for working class team members to both survive and thrive in the sector.
Exploring equality and diversity in museum practice across the UK
The 2019 National Programmes Conference explored equality and diversity in museum practice across the UK. The conference highlighted issues of representation, authority and power with particular focus on disability, class, gender, race and sexuality. The day included a lively programme of workshops, discussion and debate, shaped by contributions from colleagues across the UK.
In this one-day conference we wanted to provide a platform for colleagues to honestly and openly share their work, their research, and ideas on how UK museums can address their own histories and those of their communities. The conference focused on museum practice: addressing the realities of museum work and how colleagues are effecting change within their organisations.
We sought contributions from across the UK arts and cultural heritage sector through critical and reflective presentations, case studies, workshops and practical examples. The aim was to cover as wide a range of museum work as possible, from varied approaches to collecting, collections research, object display and interpretation, to public engagement and workforce diversity.
The conference programme encompassed two key strands, which are distinct but interconnected:
- The work of museums (for example: how we 'do' or 'don't do' collections research, care, display, interpretation, public engagement).
- The context of museums (including policy, power structures, accountability and the unrepresentative workforce).
After a welcome from the British Museum's Director Hartwig Fischer and a keynote address by Trustee Emerita, Bonnie Greer OBE, over 80 speakers and contributors from organisations across the country led 40 different breakout sessions, exploring seven thematic areas: Class, Colonialism & race, Community-led practice / participation, Disability, LGBTQ+, Values-led strategy & practice, Women & gender, Workforce diversity & recruitment.
Museums and digital memory: from creation and curation to digital preservation
In 2018, British Museum's National Programmes team hosted its annual conference in partnership with the Digital Preservation Coalition.
The conference explored the subject of digital content in museums, with a range of lively workshops, discussion and debate shaped by contributions from colleagues across the UK.
Subtitled films of all the sessions held in the main lecture theatre are available to watch on YouTube.
The UK museum sector is making increasingly creative use of digital technologies in the way it records and disseminates information about its collections. These technologies and advances in museum practice offer dynamic and exciting new ways of engaging people with collections, but they also provoke urgent questions about how we manage and preserve all the digital content we're creating.
Looking after physical assets in archives and collections is at the heart of museum work, but how do we do the same for our digital assets? What are the new skills museums need to safeguard digital content and how will we develop them?
This conference aimed to explore best practice in how we as a sector create, curate and preserve digital content – not just the exciting outward-facing side of digital technology in museums, but the often overlooked back-of-house digital preservation work that is essential to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of these efforts.
Central to the day was the question: if museums are memory institutions, how do we ensure that we maintain access to the digital memory that we're creating now for our future audiences?
Get what you give? The value and benefits of proactively lending collections
The 2017 National Programmes conference, hosted at the British Museum on 31 August 2017, explored the subject of lending museum collections.
Lending is a vibrant part of our sector, and museums' capacity to borrow from each other is being substantially increased thanks to recent initiatives such as Arts Council England's 'Ready to Borrow' grants programme, the Touring Exhibitions Group's 'Preparing to Borrow' initiative, and the Art Fund Weston Loans Programme.
This conference was designed to explore how we can make the most of these opportunities and get more collections on the move, with the aim of encouraging and supporting UK museums of every size, as well as non-museum spaces with collections, to proactively lend to each other and to borrow from wider sources.
The programme for the day included a range of sessions exploring the following themes though presentations, workshops, discussion and debate:
- The role of public and private collections, with a keynote presentation from Museums Sheffield on their major project 'Going Public'.
- Models for touring and lending, with a keynote presentation from Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on their dispersed exhibition 'Hadrian's Cavalry', and new research from the Touring Exhibitions Group.
- Partnerships and collaborations, with case studies, Q&A sessions and a discussion workshop. Speakers included Imperial War Museums, the DeMorgan Foundation and the National Trust, Tate and Two Temple Place.
- Innovation and experimentation, with case studies, Q&A sessions and a discussion workshop. Speakers included the Freemasonry Museum and Leeds Museums & Galleries.
- Practice, skills and logistics, with participatory workshops, funding case studies and presentations from the Arts Council England and the Art Fund, and practical advice surgeries on loans, the Government Indemnity Scheme, managing risk, registrarial work and touring exhibitions.