Cultural institutions, including museums, are increasingly challenged to demonstrate their value in meeting public policy requirements. These days, museums need to show that they are addressing social exclusion, tackling the barriers to participation and ensuring equality of opportunity in accessing and being involved with creative and cultural activity.
The Community Engagement Initiative was developed in partnership with National Museums Northern Ireland and received funding of £354,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It aimed to develop the skills and knowledge base for engaging local communities with museums and their collections, in order that the sector be better equipped and sustained to meet the challenges of the future.
In particular, by the end of 2015 the Community Engagement Initiative;
- gave ten people the opportunity to gain specialist skills and practical, work-based experience in engaging communities with museum collections so enhancing their pathways to working in the sector,
- increased the range and quality of work-based training in community engagement with museum collections,
- supported museums in developing their engagement programmes by way of increasing the opportunities for communities to learn about and participate in heritage, and
- increased the mentoring and coaching skills of museum staff, thus strengthening their capacity to communicate and share good practice.
10 people were selected from nearly 200 applicants, to undertake placements at Causeway Museum Service, Derry Heritage and Museum Service, Fermanagh County Museum, Mid-Antrim Museum, North Down Museum, and at the three sites of the National Museums Northern Ireland, the Ulster Museum, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, and the Ulster American Folk Park. For 18 months this valuable hands-on experience on placement enabled them to develop skills and gain experience to advance their careers.
Speaking at the launch of this pioneering scheme NIMC Director, Chris Bailey, said,
“Ensuring that tomorrow’s museum professionals have the necessary skills is a key aspect of making museums a sustainable community resource. This training programme will also strengthen the bond between people and their local museums and is an investment that will further protect our heritage for the enjoyment of this and future generations.”
Paddy Gilmore, Director of Learning & Partnership at National Museums Northern Ireland said,
“National Museums Northern Ireland is once again delighted to be a partner in this excellent scheme which gives aspiring museum professionals invaluable knowledge and an appreciation of work in the museum and heritage sectors. Our museums have also benefitted from the enthusiasm and contribution of the participants.”
He added “As well as gaining hands-on experience and access to our unique and diverse collections, participants will have the opportunity to work with their local communities to find ways of placing them at the heart of the museum.”
The 10 Trainees with their Coaches, April 2014