Experiences of Researching at the Ground-level

After being buried in a big mountain of data over the last 4 month I am coming up *gasping* for air to share with everyone how things are going.  After starting at MGS in July I have really hit the ground running as the new Research Analyst – I still cannot believe how lucky I am to be part of the process of speaking to all the amazing museum people of Scotland.  For those who do not know me, I just finished my PhD where I studied museum workers’ perspectives on policy.  The day after handing this in I started at MGS.  People still think I am making this up, but I must be one of the few PhD students in the World to go directly into the sector that they have studied for 8 years and been so passionate about.

On top of this luck I stepped bang into the beginning of a very epic research project.  As some of you may know we have been undertaking a massive project here at MGS around building a delivery plan and forming the New Development Body.  Our ‘Roadshows’ toured all over Scotland and we conducted 34 semi-structured focus groups with a really wide range of museum organisations throughout Scotland.  On top of this, we have been gathering questionnaires that were sent out to the sector to gain insight into current and future projects and how they link to the National Strategy.  The feedback from the sector was extremely valuable and the themes and priorities that came out of the roadshows really resonated strongly across all of Scotland.

St Mungo’s Museum, Glasgow – kindly hosted one of the roadshows

One of the best parts of the process was that it connects really strongly with what I argued in my thesis.  Namely, that high-level policy is ineffective if you do not start with museum workers themselves at the ground-level.  Policy expectations must align with the values of those who are delivering in museum services.  Otherwise, policy becomes a distant rhetoric – or as one of my participants called it – “a big flamoungey thing” that workers simply cannot connect to.

The formation of the MGS delivery plan has really started at the ground-level.  We have gone to the sector first, taken in their considerations, and analysed them in a robust way that I believe gives a trustworthy picture of the sector and their priorities.  The delivery plan will be out soon and the data we have gathered has formed it and influenced it every step of the way. I believe this is the only way to build effective and meaningful policy and am very much enjoying my experience of it in process.

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