Scottish Museums Federation – Staying Relevant

This year’s Scottish Museums Federation conference marks an important milestone in our history, as 2017 is the Scottish Museums Federation’s 80th year. On October 26th 1937 the Glasgow Herald reported a new “Scottish Museums Federation: to promote co-operation among curators”. The article describes the Fed as a “project” which “will enable curators and their staff to derive mutual benefit from an exchange of ideas from other members”. The first President was Mr James Eggleton, Director of the Kelvingrove Art Galleries. 80 years later and our core aim has not changed!

Newspaper headline from SMF inception year

A Positive Future

We have chosen the topic of this year’s conference to complement this milestone. Rather than looking back, we have chosen to look forward. ‘A Positive Future‘ will give us all an opportunity to understand what challenges and opportunities might present themselves and will question our current practice. The three broad themes try and cover a wide area of museum work: collections, institutions and audiences. We have also invited a prestigious panel of past Scottish Museums Federation Presidents and committee members to reflect on our history and look to the future. The panel will consist of:

Jilly Burns – Head of National and International Partnerships, National Museums Scotland

Bob Clark – Director of the Auchindrain Trust

Graham Watson – Head of Resources, High Life Highland

Tamsin Russell – Professional Development Officer, Museums Association

Rowan Brown – Director of the Woodburn Charitable Trust

We will be asking the panel what they think the SMF has done for the sector , as well as looking at how the role of the Fed has changed and continues to do so. We will also be taking questions from the audience. If you have any thoughts on what the Fed has done for you, or indeed any ideas about what our activities should be, please put those to our panel.

Scottish Museums Federation Conference 2016

Still Relevant

As a personal reflection, I believe the Scottish Museums Federation has endured so long because it has stayed relevant. It is run by professionals working in the sector and its activities reflect the needs of the membership. It was founded as an organisation to encourage cooperation by museum professionals (well curators originally!). I suppose this is fundamentally still our core aim, but we now operate in a very different landscape. We are one of a number of similar organisations who seek to encourage cooperation, skill sharing and knowledge exchange. This can only be a positive thing for the sector, but the important thing for the SMF is to continue to be relevant. At present, the Fed has found a role delivering informal learning opportunities and giving our membership the chance to get together (to get out the office!) and visit other museums, stores and heritage sites.


A Successful Three Years

In the last three years we have also ran a successful events programme, running an incredible 23 events, which includes running three conferences, a digitisation in focus event, and countless pop-ups across the country, as well as speaking at the Museums Association Conference (twice!) in 2017. We also hosted the first Scottish Museums Day and have plans to run this campaign again this year. Whatever the reason the Fed has lasted 80 years, I sincerely hope that the Fab Fed is still around in another 80 years and can give the same support and friendships that I had, to future generations.

Scottish Museums Federation Digitisation Event 2015

A Positive Future: Institutions, Collections and Audiences

Our conference takes place on the 26th April 2017 at the National Museum of  Scotland from 9.45am. Full information about the Conference is available on the Scottish Museum Federation website.

We are also hosting an 80th birthday party afterwards at the Grassmarket Centre, Edinburgh, from 4.30pm onwards. Come along and join us for drinks, nibbles, celebrations, and most importantly – birthday cake! If you can’t make it to the conference during the day but would still like to join us at the birthday celebration – no problem! Please just email us and let us know (to help us with numbers). The more the merrier!

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