What does data have to do with museums?

On Friday 5th June I attended a free conference at the British Museum called ‘What does data have to do with me?’ As someone who deals with data about collections daily in my work, and has a reasonable grasp of the importance of visitor data from my previous roles and Museum Studies course, I still consider myself something of a novice in this field. To see the potential of what data, in the right hands, can do was a real eye-opener. The many speakers, from diverse organisations such as the BBC, the Guardian, the Audience Agency, Nesta and the Arts Council, spoke on different subjects and projects, but some common themes emerged again and again:

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The V Word

It’s Volunteers’ Week, and lots of UK museums are rightly celebrating volunteers and the contribution that they make. It’s also a week in which I discovered the US based ‘ongoing twitter chat’ #MuseumWorkersSpeak encouraging solidarity among museum workers, and in which jobs were the topic for @museumhour on twitter. Since volunteering and jobs are so enmeshed in the museum sector, I wanted to revisit some of my thoughts from my museum manifesto post which I wrote in May on how museums might find new approaches to these issues. I set out to write a very comprehensive post discussing various pathways to museum work but I soon realised that requires much more research and time than I have right now, so I will continue that discussion in a future post.

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Enter through the shop…

…in which I indulge the opportunity  to play fashion blogger (while still writing about museums).

While browsing for museum news online recently I came across a curious collaboration: high street store Oasis have teamed up with the V&A to produce a range of clothes and accessories inspired by the museum’s archive of prints.  At first I thought it was a strange arrangement; museums might strike up a relationship with a brand for sponsorship or hoping to attract different audiences by partnering with cool designers (more of that later) but in this case it seems the V&A is the ‘cool’ partner of the pairing. The museum was after all established to inspire British designers and manufacturers, and this is exactly the role it is fulfilling in this partnership.

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Post-election Museum Manifesto: How can museums fight to survive in the next 5 years of Tory government?

I wrote this on Friday, when I, along with everyone on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, was feeling pretty sore about the Conservative election win. In some ways it feels frivolous to be focusing my thoughts and energy on how this election will affect museums, rather than wider issues in society, but museums are what I know about, and the area where I feel I have more scope to have a positive impact. Focusing on one area where I might make a different is more productive than looking at the bigger picture and simply despairing.  That said, I believe museums are a privilege. They are not the NHS, or the welfare state, which people depend on as a safety net in times of need, and which are now at risk. I am not going to argue that museums are an essential in our society, but they are a wonderful thing for society to have. While I hope there will be a fight for the protection of true essentials like healthcare, social care, and education, we need to put up a fight for our privileges too, because a society where we only have essential services and are grateful for them is too little to ask for in Britain in the 21st century.

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Some thoughts on #futurecurator, from someone who wasn’t there.