<ul><li>Knowledge is Key: </li></ul><ul><li>Using academic research at  </li></ul><ul><li>Discovery Museum </li></ul><ul><...
4 Stakeholder groups <ul><li>1. Visitors & non-visitors </li></ul><ul><li>2. External experts & specialists </li></ul><ul>...
How did the partnership work? <ul><li>Contractual model </li></ul><ul><li>Long term partnership </li></ul><ul><li>Collabor...
Benefits & legacy <ul><li>Body of research </li></ul><ul><li>Contacts for the future </li></ul><ul><li>Consultation model ...
Challenges <ul><li>Museum can’t abrogate responsibility for research </li></ul><ul><li>University staff are the museum’s a...
Dear Chief Secretary,  I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left! Yours, Liam
Thank you for listening <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
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Knowledge is Key: Using academic research at Discovery Museum


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Members of staff from Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums attended the annual Museums Association Conference in Manchester in October 2010. Hazel Edwards (Manager, Discovery Museum) presented a paper entitled Knowledge is Key: Using Academic Research at Discovery Museum, which discussed a successful collaboration between Discovery Museum and Durham University.

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  • Last month a major community engagement project came to fruition at Tyne &amp; Wear Archives &amp; Museums. It is called Discovery Re-visioning and has engaged 530 people in discussions about how to take the Newcastle based Discovery Museum into the 21st century.
  • The research was carried out by Durham university and aims to develop a new vision for the museum and help secure funding for future developments. The views of over 500 people were sought across four stakeholder groups:
    (413) Visitors and non-visitors
    (18) External specialists and experts
    (11) City and regional funders &amp; stakeholders
    And finally (88) Discovery staff &amp; volunteers
  • And here is Discovery. Housed in former Co-operative Wholesale Society warehouse built in the late 19th century.
    Discovery is one of NE’s largest free museums and the HQ of the Tyne and Wear Archive &amp; Museums group:
    V. Popular – consistently attracts over 440,000 visitors a year and is especially popular with families.
    Offers gateway to Tyneside’s history and innovation with highly interactive displays exploring Newcastle’s social history and maritime past. The museum also celebrates scientific and technological innovation on Tyneside. Galleries on local fashion and local regiments add to the exciting mix.
    The picture on the right shows the main atrium space that people enter on arrival.
  • Last summer we celebrated our 75th birthday with much fun, excitement and a bit of pomp and over 3,200 visitors came along to celebrate.
  • So why are we re-visioning such a popular and well established museum? 3 drivers:
    Main reason decade since thought about the strategic and long term development of Discovery. 1999-2004 £14m invested in Discovery led to new galleries, toilets, café, learning room and creation of the atrium space, I’ve already mentioned. With the high footfall much of the infrastructure needs replacing or is looking dated.
    2. Newcastle’s demographic structure has changed over the past decade and we need to catch up. Whilst historically the city’s population has been (and still is) predominantly white, experimental statistics show that the minority population has grown to 9%. Furthermore, like other UK cities the student population has expanded dramatically as has the number of retired people offering us new challenges for audience development.
    3. Discovery also home to Tyne and Wear Archives. Archives formally merged with museums in 2009 – so 3rd driver behind re-visioning exercise is to explore how archive service can be brought up to date, more integrated with museum– seen by public as part of Discovery’s offer.
  • Tyne and Wear Archives &amp; Museums has a nationally recognised track record in community engagement and participation and Discovery itself has a strong community focus expressed in its temporary and permanent displays, events &amp; programming.
    But we wanted to take this engagement to another level. In a nutshell, unlike many other major museum projects, we didn’t want to consult our stakeholders about a vision which has already been created by museum staff. Instead we want to arrive at a new vision for the museum in the 21st century via a dialogue with a wide mix of visitors, non-visitors, staff, volunteers &amp; other key stakeholders.
    We also felt that the traditional top-down, closed approach of visitor surveys or focus groups was not going to be appropriate. Instead, we were keen to use techniques from the field of participatory research and this is where Durham University &amp; Rachel Pain entered the frame.
    We chose the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action at Durham for 4 reasons:
    Rachel, co-director of the Centre and a social geographer, has internationally recognised expertise in participatory research.
    With Rachel’s experience we felt we would be able to fulfil our twin ambitions for the Re-visioning project to be ground breaking and have academic credibility
    For obvious reasons of cost and organisation, we were keen to work with a local university and Durham is only 20 miles from Newcastle.
    Rachel also has access to post doctoral researchers who could take responsibility for data collection and analysis – indeed you can see the project’s Research Assistant – Mathilde - in the slide talking to visitor.
  • So how did the partnership work? As Iain has already mentioned, the relationship between Discovery Museum and Durham University was very different to the Laing partnership.
    We followed a straight forward contractual model whereby the museum commissioned expertise from an academic partner.
    However, it probably departed from a more formal consultant/client model because of the long term nature of the project – it has spanned 14 months
    And we have adopted a very collaborative approach. For example, Rachel and I worked very closely in developing the methodology.
    Also, Rachel has been happy to report back at regular intervals to the project’s steering group.
  • The benefits and legacy of this university commissioned research are many:
    First and foremost we have an in depth, academically credible piece of research about our stakeholders’ views of Discovery which will help shape the future development of the museum.
    We now have strong contacts with groups and individuals who we can invite back to Discovery to discuss emerging recommendations &amp; actions.
    The re-visioning project will hopefully provide a consultation model for other projects within the TWAM group &amp; perhaps beyond?
    On a more personal level, I have gained skills and experience in facilitating participatory research sessions and using diagramming exercises– as my colleagues will testify, rarely does a meeting go by now without me bringing along flip charts &amp; post-it notes!
    The project has also cemented relations with CSJ CA at Durham university &amp; TWAM. A group of undergraduate students carried out some interesting visitor research using ethno videography to record how visitors interact with the displays.
    And last year we successfully applied for an Economic &amp; Social Research Council funded collaborative PhD. The student starts next week and Rachel.
  • Of course the project has not been without its challenges:
    As indicated earlier, it has been a highly collaborative, with lots of meetings, email exchanges &amp; phone calls. Contracting a university doesn’t mean that you can abrogate responsibility for the commissioned research.
    As many of the participatory sessions were run by the project’s RA, Mathilde, she was in effect the museum’s ambassador so we invested time, via an induction programme, in ensuring she was familiar with the museum and its content.
    Finally, as I’m sure you will appreciate, consultation on this scale was not cheap and it is unlikely that we will be able to afford it post April 2011.
    This neatly leads me on to my closing remarks – what do the anticipated public spending cuts mean for community engagement &amp; consultation? What role can university partnerships have in ensuring that this work continues?
  • The idea for Discovery re-visioning was conceived in the summer of 2008 just before the onset of the global financial crisis.
    We are all waiting with baited breath for the comprehensive spending review on 20th October. As the former Labour Minister, Liam Byrne’s now infamous note to his successor at the treasury said – there’s no money left! It is very likely that commissioned research like the Discovery Re-visioning project will be harder to fund so we are going to have to be smarter about how we collaborate with universities in the future.
    At Discovery I hope that our collaboration with Rachel Pain and her colleagues &amp; students will continue.
    It is very likely that Discovery Re-visioning phase 2 will involve our collaborative PhD student &amp; further undergraduate research projects
    And a more DIY approach (without sacrificing academic rigour) using existing methodologies &amp; staff skills in combination with a more strategic use of Rachel &amp; her colleagues’ expertise.
  • So, having introduced you to the Discovery Re-visioning project I will now hand you over to Rachel who will talk in more depth about the participatory approach and the project’s findings. And reflect on the partnership from the university’s perspective.
  • Knowledge is Key: Using academic research at Discovery Museum

    1. 1. <ul><li>Knowledge is Key: </li></ul><ul><li>Using academic research at </li></ul><ul><li>Discovery Museum </li></ul><ul><li>Museums Association Conference </li></ul><ul><li>5 October 2010 </li></ul>
    2. 2. 4 Stakeholder groups <ul><li>1. Visitors & non-visitors </li></ul><ul><li>2. External experts & specialists </li></ul><ul><li>3. Stakeholders & funders </li></ul><ul><li>4. Staff & volunteers </li></ul>
    3. 7. How did the partnership work? <ul><li>Contractual model </li></ul><ul><li>Long term partnership </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback to Steering Group </li></ul>
    4. 8. Benefits & legacy <ul><li>Body of research </li></ul><ul><li>Contacts for the future </li></ul><ul><li>Consultation model </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitation & diagramming skills </li></ul><ul><li>Undergraduate research </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative PhD </li></ul>
    5. 9. Challenges <ul><li>Museum can’t abrogate responsibility for research </li></ul><ul><li>University staff are the museum’s ambassadors </li></ul><ul><li>Cost! </li></ul>
    6. 10. Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left! Yours, Liam
    7. 11. Thank you for listening <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>