RQs designed based on museums priorities – but to be emergent and ground up – no closed tick-boxes - offer best chance of allowing new ideas in.
“In order that we can all touch our past”: Participatory Re-visioning of Discovery Museum
“In order that we can all touch our past”:
Participatory Re-visioning of Discovery
Rachel Pain, Durham University
Museums Association Conference 5th
Involving those conventionally
‘researched’ in some or all stages of the
process, from problem definition through
– A more collaborative, less hierarchical, less
extractive approach to researching museum
– How far can and should we take participation
in a museum context?
Research Question 1 “The big vision”
• What are participants’ ideas and wishes, needs, suggestions
about the purpose of museums, how they could relate to their
audience and how their audience could relate to them?
Research Question 2 “The Discovery visit”
• What do participants believe is working at Discovery and what
could be improved?
Research Question 3 “What would help?”
• What reasons are there for not visiting Discovery, and what
would encourage people to do so?
Research Question 4: “A participatory methodology”
• How effectively can a participatory research approach and
methodology capture and integrate the views on the
Museum’s future from a range of visitors, non-visitors, staff
and other key stakeholders?
• Discussion groups
• Participatory diagrams
• Staff training and peer research
530 people were included from four
stakeholder groups: visitors and non-visitors,
external experts and specialists, city and
regional funders and stakeholders, and
TWAM staff and volunteers.
Some key findings
• Strong emotions about and connections with the
North East (for most, a very positive
identity).This shapes expectations and
responses to Discovery Museum.
• And vice versa: feelings of emotional attachment
to Discovery content both reflect and cement
aspects of regional identity - a big part of what
adults want to pass on to children during visits.
• Consensus - no major disagreement between
stakeholder groups on the purpose of museums
• But ‘hard to reach’ (socially marginalised)
groups have a more negative view of life in the
North East and the Museum
• They identified a number of barriers to physical,
social and cultural access, which deter them
• Need to continue traditional programming, but
reflect diversity of communities’ histories too
Reflections on collaborating with
the museum sector
• Not just a ‘commission from a distance’ or a
report on the shelf - a real partnership, and
• TWAM keen to think and reflect critically
• Real enthusiasm for participatory approach,
and embedding it in TWAM
• Time/finance issues
• What happens to minority
voices amid a sea of others?