“In order that we can all touch our past”:
Participatory Re-visioning of Discovery
Museum
Rachel Pain, Durham University
r...
Participatory research
Involving those conventionally
‘researched’ in some or all stages of the
process, from problem defi...
Research questions
Research Question 1 “The big vision”
• What are participants’ ideas and wishes, needs, suggestions
abou...
Methodology
• Discussion groups
• Participatory diagrams
• Staff training and peer research
530 people were included from ...
Some key findings
• Strong emotions about and connections with the
North East (for most, a very positive
identity).This sh...
• Consensus - no major disagreement between
stakeholder groups on the purpose of museums
• But ‘hard to reach’ (socially m...
Reflections on collaborating with
the museum sector
• Not just a ‘commission from a distance’ or a
report on the shelf - a...
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“In order that we can all touch our past”: Participatory Re-visioning of Discovery Museum

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Delivered by Rachel Pain, Durham University, at the Museums Association Conference 5th October 2010.

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  • 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

    1. 1. “In order that we can all touch our past”: Participatory Re-visioning of Discovery Museum Rachel Pain, Durham University rachel.pain@durham.ac.uk Museums Association Conference 5th October 2010
    2. 2. Participatory research Involving those conventionally ‘researched’ in some or all stages of the process, from problem definition through to action: – A more collaborative, less hierarchical, less extractive approach to researching museum audiences? – How far can and should we take participation in a museum context?
    3. 3. Research questions 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?
    4. 4. Methodology • 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.
    5. 5. 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.
    6. 6. • 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 from visiting • Need to continue traditional programming, but reflect diversity of communities’ histories too
    7. 7. Reflections on collaborating with the museum sector • Not just a ‘commission from a distance’ or a report on the shelf - a real partnership, and real commitment • 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?

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