I took a couple of days out of the office last week to attend the MuseumNext conference in Newcastle. At some point I began calling it ‘Museum Camp’ and it proved a very rewarding experience and more fun than many conferences I have attended. I think some of the material will be of interest to a wider audience.

The first point of interest was how I heard about it – through following @ninaksimon on Twitter and then tracking the website and blog that accompanied the initial mention. Being a museum geek this method of publicity really appealed to me and was enhanced by the ambition noted on their website “MuseumNext is for museum professionals who are interested in innovative new ways to energize audiences and create more engaging experiences for museum and gallery visitors.”

The first session was 5:30pm until 11:00pm on Thursday at the new Great North Museum and involved very creative activities by [Re]design who encourage sustainability in using refuse, design and technology to create toys and activities of interest for young people. We, not so young delegates, undertook to slap digital spiders, draw animals, observe frisbees being made from milk cartons and sew aliens (see picture for a completed version I was gifted). Not being of the creative artistic mould I did not excel, but it certainly got people talking, networking and the blood flowing through the brain.

leaflets and brochures from the Museum Next Goodie Bag

Prior to the event delegates were invited to submit ‘Big Ideas’ that they wanted MuseumNext to solve and on Thursday evening all 7 were presented and the audience voted which one they wanted to help. Over the next two days each idea was re-presented, digested, postulated, brainstormed, considered, then concluded for everyone with a short debrief on Friday at 4:30pm. These are available on the website.

Nina Simon and Jim Richardson organised the conference and Nina gave an excellent presentation on her thinking behind participatory museums, citing examples, theories, ideas and left me wanting more. Luckily her blog is filled with material and well worth an RSS feed.

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  1. Thanks Chris. Out of the 70 or so delegates, they included professionals from national museums, local authorities, galleries. museum trusts and international institutions too. All of them enthusiastic about the paradigm in the museum sector and whether it was changing for their organisation or not.

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