Museums Association Conference 2012

This guest blog posts comes from Catherine Peck, House and Collections Officer at Saltram, National Trust. Catherine was one of twenty MGS interns who have recently finished their placement in a Scottish museum. Each of the interns were given the opportunity to attend the Museums Association conference and here Catherine shares her thoughts about the event:

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the MA Conference 2012 having recently completed a Collections Internship organised by MGS at the University of Edinburgh.  It seemed strange to be coming back to Edinburgh only a week after starting a new job in Plymouth!  From one end of the country to another…

Anyway, I arrived in Edinburgh excited about the prospect of the conference, meeting up with other interns and former colleagues. Apart from looking over the programme I didn’t know what to expect as this was my first MA conference. Things got off to a positive start as I was able to network and chat with other delegates before the morning sessions began. Throughout the conference I was struck by the opportunities to engage in networking during extended tea/coffee and lunch breaks. This time was really important and I felt able to absorb ideas and debates from the sessions and take my time exploring the Exhibition.

Thursday kicked off with Fiona Hyslop’s keynote. It was really interesting to see the ways in which each of the four keynote speakers over the two days decided to deliver their vision. This was the first time I’d attended a museums conference of this scale so listening to the presentations and Q&A sessions was genuinely fascinating. I was impressed by Aamer Anwar‘s absolute commitment to museums and their role in improving social justice and engaging communities.  I’m always intrigued by people with very strong views on something as it makes me want to figure out how they’ve got to that point and why. Being young and just starting out in my career it’s useful to listen to people like Aamer as it helps me reach my own conclusions.

Aamer Anwar (photo credit Stephen Morris)

For me, the highlight of the conference was hearing Martin Roth (director of the V&A) deliver the keynote on Friday morning. Having little prior knowledge I expected a ‘politician’ figure to roll out something acceptable…we’d all clap, say it was interesting and forget about it the next day. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I felt personally moved by Roth’s speech and the way in which he handled the Q&A session. It was so refreshing to see someone high-powered within the museum world being so openly passionate about working in museums and discussing the future of the sector. He has clearly not lost any of the enthusiasm which presumably drew him to museums in the first place. At points Roth struggled to answer questions from delegates but took his time to give an honest and thoughtful response rather than passing people off with a generic answer. Having leaders with the confidence to speak humbly and thoughtfully is a really positive sign for the sector and something which is inspiring.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the MA conference and hopefully this will be the first of many!

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