Looking back and reflecting over the past year, it has certainly been one of momentous global events… to the point where colleagues remarked they would return to Scotland with trepidation, as the AIM conference in Edinburgh woke up to a Brexit vote and the MA conference in Glasgow saw an unexpected US election result.
All at MGS have been out and about this past year. Some personal highlights for me have been a spring start up in the North, first with a trip to the Western Isles to see the beautiful Lews Castle project and to meet with the Comainn Eachdraidh and hear about their future plans. I was then asked to speak at a wonderful event at Timespan in Helmsdale for their True North Conference, which explored the intersections between history, intangible cultural heritage and art expressions. Grampian Transport Museum then invited me to open their brilliant new entrance which has enhanced their service, and the display of Guy Martin’s collection has ensured they have had a record number of visitors this year.
A real highlight was when, after applying to do a session for the largest museum event in the world, at the American Alliance of Museums Conference in Washington DC, we were accepted. We took the Scottish Football Museum and one of our Heritage Horizons trainees now working at Edinburgh City Council over to talk about their work and experiences, whilst MGS brought the context of the National Strategy and our work to shine a light on museums tackling inequalities and widening access. Our conference for 2017 will also deal with this topic, so if you have any ideas for sessions, our Call for Papers is currently open.
In the summer we continued this cross cutting work by taking up the offer of a stand at the main NHS event at the SECC to introduce all aspects of the health service to the great work museums are doing contributing to health and wellbeing. We were enthusiastically received, and much brokering of new relationships has followed. We also showcased how museums such as Paisley and Fairfield Govan are at the heart of regeneration work at the World Towns Summit.
Summer also brought a visit over to the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum and their annual classic motorbike show where I was handing out prizes, plus a quick sneak preview of the amazing collection holdings of Brodick Castle, which was soon to be announced as our 47th Nationally Significant Collection. Back in the office, we were also working away to recruit new Board members and have now announced six new wonderful members. all bringing a wide range of new skills and knowledge to strengthen the Board of MGS going forward. Our new digital services (website and blog) were also developed ready for launch in September to great reviews and enthusiasm from the sector.
In the autumn, an invitation came in from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to attend the launch of their Thin Red Line Appeal, a fundraising campaign to transform the museum. It was a lovely event, where I got to meet their Thin Red Line patron, Prince William, who has given them a fantastic start to the campaign and I look forward to seeing the museum flourish.
Moving into winter, I was lucky enough to have some late sunshine with a British Council-sponsored event as the final part of the Transform project. At their conference – Museus Para Quê? (or ‘Museums, What For?’) at the magnificent Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro – I spoke on public policy around museums in Scotland along with other speakers from Glasgow Museums, the Tate, the International Slavery Museums and the Horniman amongst others.
2016 at MGS will end, and 2017 begin, with our twitter advocacy campaign taking place over the Twelve Days of Christmas, #MuseumsGaveToMe, where we are asking you to tweet and get involved in celebrating the impacts of your museum. You can read all about how you can do this over on our website.
We’ve certainly had a very busy year here at MGS – it has been inspiring as ever to see the fantastic work that the Scottish museums sector is doing. I wish you the very best of the festive season, and hope to see you in 2017.