One of the many great ways museums work in partnership with each other is through local and regional forums, which offer opportunities for museums to share knowledge, establish collaborative projects, and pursue regional initiatives, including marketing and events. Scotland has more than a dozen forums, and each one is slightly different in terms of composition, size, activities and formality, and they range in age, from decades old (in the instance of the Highland Museums Forum or the North Ayrshire Museums Forum) to very young indeed (Dumfries and Galloway Museums & Heritage Forum turns one this month! Happy birthday!).
Scotland’s museums forums are an important part of the support network for our museums, and that was clearly in evidence yesterday, when my colleague Jacob and I visited Dumfries Museum to meet with the Dumfries & Galloway forum. The ‘business end’ of the meeting was short, looking at ways in which the Forum is looking to develop over the next year and at their most effective ways of communicating, and the afternoon was dominated by a training session on textile conservation, offered by Glasgow University’s Centre for Textile Conservation.
This is one of the areas where forums are really excelling—offering formal or informal opportunities for skills development, training, and learning to their members. Some of these programmes are formalised—Fife Museums Forum is currently funded by MGS for a programme of management training for mid-career staff at their museums—but many of the learning opportunities that forums offer are much more informal. These include peer support and knowledge-sharing at meetings, social media groups used by members to share issues or questions, and chances to meet other museums staff or volunteers who might be able to help in other ways, such as establishing relationships between museums and potential Museum Mentors.
On 3 May, we will host a day session for forum leaders and Museum Mentors, here at MGS. This whole day session will include a workshop in the morning on giving feedback, managing difficult conversations, and over-coming negativity (useful, but slightly scary!), followed by lunch, with speakers from the geographic forums and opportunities for discussion, peer support, and networking in the afternoon. Places on this day course are limited and can be reserved through our website.
If you are not involved in a forum currently, but would like to be, please get in touch. Where a forum already exists for your area, I can get your museum in touch with the relevant forum leaders, or if your organisation is in one of the areas where a forum does not yet exist, we can look at ways that we can support you to begin to work collaboratively with other museums in your area.