Breaking Down Barriers: #MGSConf Breakout Sessions Announced


Join us on Thursday 12 October for the MGS conference Inequalities: Bridging the Gap, which will focus on inequalities. We’ll be looking at the work museums are doing to address inequality in education, health and well-being, and access.

The day will consist of a mix of breakout sessions and keynotes. Our keynote presenters will be Dr Adele PatrickGlasgow Women’s Library’s Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager, and Nik Apostolides, the Deputy CEO of the United States Capitol Visitor Center. Adele will present GWL’s grassroots approach, and Nik will explore how urban museums can better serve diverse local communities.

We’ve got a fantastic line-up of stimulating breakout sessions to complement Adele and Nik’s keynotes. Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail, but please check our website if you need further information.


Morning Breakouts

In our morning breakout sessions we’ll take an in-depth look at what we mean by inequalities and how we can address these. Delegates will be able to choose from five sessions on the subject.

The National Galleries of Scotland will be asking what we mean by ‘widening access’ in museums and galleries… it’s often a priority, but what does it mean in practice, and does it go hand-in-hand with tackling inequality?

A stimulating panel discussion will be looking at how to dismantle the structure of inequalities in the museum sector and explore whether we are engaging with individuals and groups without addressing the structures that create inequality.

We’ll also be taking a look at LGBTQIA+ Collections, exploring the Proud City: LGBTQIA+ Edinburgh project, and the Lesbian Archive Development Project at Glasgow Women’s Library, discussing the motivations and challenges in each.

It’s three for the price of one in another session, with three short presentations from Engage Scotland, Art in Healthcare and the National Galleries of Scotland highlighting recent best practice in arts and health work, followed by an open discussion.

Our final breakout option of the morning will discuss how cross-border working with under-represented communities brings fresh ideas and viewpoints to current practices in museums and art galleries.


After Lunch…

Our early afternoon sessions will look at how to engage audiences with complex needs in a meaningful way. Delegates will be able to choose from four sessions on the subject.

Our first session asks how we weave first-hand accounts of mental illness into exhibitions in a respectful way. We’ll explore the positives and pitfalls encountered by Wellcome Collection and Core Arts during a project to create an audio-guide to the Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond exhibition.

How can museums use their collections to inspire expressive communication in children with special educational needs and disabilities? In a multi-sensory workshop, Leeds Museums and Galleries will explore how objects can inspire creative responses in SEND pupils, and how when used differently they can meet a range of complex needs.

Another session stems from the solo exhibition Deep in the Heart of Your Brain which explored disability, care and loss. The breakout will look at how artworks are used across academic research disciplines, in addition to being in a public gallery.

By looking at the work being carried out at Culzean Castle for visitors with autism, our fourth session looks at breaking down some of the access barriers around ASDs. The National Trust for Scotland will share the experience of organising autism-friendly sessions, in addition to discussing the partnerships and networks that have been developed.


The Final Stretch

Now that we have defined what is meant by inequalities, and how museums can engage visitors with complex needs, we’ll look at how audience development plays a part. Our late afternoon sessions will approach audience development from the perspective of addressing inequalities.

The first of these sessions will look at how museums can promote radical access and participation working with their communities. The Museums Association, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Artlink will outline their approaches to building lasting relationships with communities. They will also discuss how funders are beginning to judge if applicants are offering practical ways to achieve social justice.

The ‘visitor journey’ starts long before crossing the threshold, with decisions made online about whether access needs will be met. The experience continues into venues, where choices made by curators and designers can support learning, or put up new barriers. Exploring this journey, VocalEyes shares research into access information; the Burrell Collection will discuss involving the local community in improving access; and we’ll take a look at inclusive exhibitions that bringing together intellectual and physical access.

Our third late afternoon session asks why it is that certain groups don’t visit your institution. How we can maximise the range of people who see our collections by developing a greater understanding of BME visitors’ experiences in museums?

Our final afternoon option will be an interactive workshop where you can learn about the Mentally Flourishing Mums Project; and Scotswummin, a YouthLink Scotland project investigating Scotland’s forgotten women and community youth groups. Youthlink Scotland and Live Borders will take us through these projects, which used creative methods to engage hard-to-reach community groups.


Don’t delay, book today!

With a jam-packed programme of sessions, it’s going to be difficult to make a choice. But don’t delay your decisions too long… some of our breakout sessions sold out very quickly in 2015. Make sure you buy your conference tickets at before the discounts end on 31 July. If you know you’re coming, we can invoice your organisation (so you don’t even need to pay immediately!).

We look forward to seeing you in October!

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