Suzanne Gibson 'Making Change in a Volunteer Run Museum'


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Keynote presentation Small Museum Conference 2012 Toowoomba

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  • Timber cutting; health and medicine
  • Suzanne Gibson 'Making Change in a Volunteer Run Museum'

    1. 1. Making Change in a Volunteer Run Museum Suzanne Gibson: Manager Cairns Historical Society Museum
    2. 2. DISCLAIMER
    3. 3. Outline• Background to myself and the Cairns Historical Society Museum.• Overview of the planning work we’ve been doing and where we are at.• Snapshot of a few community engagement activities we’ve tried.• Reflections .. lessons; the good the bad and the ugly of change … ;)
    4. 4. Me
    5. 5. Cairns Historical Society Museum • Part of the Cairns Historical Society, the earliest Historical Society in NQ • Society has four operations: research archive/library; imaging department; shop; and a museum. • Society as a whole has an active volunteer base of 50, of which 20 are active in the museum • Museum established in 1980, and extensively refurbished in 1983
    6. 6. Why change?• Falling visitation• Invisibility in the community• The building was extremely run down• The museum didn’t seem to reflect Cairns
    7. 7. The case for changeThe museum didn’t really seem to reflect the Cairns that we could see, smell and hear around us
    8. 8. Strengths• There is a great story to tell• There was no other museum in town• We have a huge international and national visitation to our city• Great premises – potential!
    9. 9. • Great resources in terms of the CHS collection• An organisational culture of public service• Willingness to think about changing• POTENTIAL
    10. 10. Making change• A plan for renewing the museum• Reach out to locals• A better relationship with CRC
    11. 11. Irritating and unjust as it seems:we had to demonstrate the value ofwhat we do and the potential of our organisation.
    12. 12. Short story• Successful in obtaining two years of funding from CRC to rethink the museum.• New strategic plan, new collection policy, thematic survey of the collection, strategic collecting priorities.• The process got us out talking to people outside our organisation.
    13. 13. The surprises• Most volunteers understood that the museum had stagnated• Many also recognised that the museum needed to be modernised• Most volunteers were enthused at the potential for change
    14. 14. The Vision A museum that reveals the pastand connects with the present of Cairns as a tropical city.
    15. 15. Our Mission The Cairns Museumcollects, conserves, researches and exhibits thehistory, heritage, people, places and changing environment of Cairns.
    16. 16. Our Values• A sustainable museum and collection as an endowment for the future• Fostering community connections and social inclusion• Integrity in the presentation of stories and displays• An advocate for the importance of our place, and its history and heritage
    17. 17. Our Purpose• Interpret the history of Cairns through stories about life in the tropics and people, places, objects and the environment• Orient visitors and the community to the history, heritage, places and cultures shaping the development of Cairns• Engage the community and visitors, sharing stories about life in the tropics• Provide education opportunities to people of all ages• Care for a significant collection for present and future generations
    18. 18. Reasons to be cheerful …• CRC has set aside $3.75 million to renovate the School of Arts building• Included is dedicated space for the CHC and its collection, as well as dedicated space for the museum … ie we’re not being evicted• Wheelchair accessible and new street entry• Talking with CRC about an MOU that will provide some financial support to the CHS• Funding to re-imagine our display and interpretation of Aboriginal cultures• Funding for replanning the museum
    19. 19. Reasons to tear out your hair …• There is no money for a fit out (plan to win that one)• They won’t put the museum on the ground floor (won’t win that one)• Still don’t really see the potential of the museum as a CBD drawcard (can change that)
    20. 20. Outreach
    21. 21. History on the Move trailer
    22. 22. Reflections: the internal community• Change needs leadership.• Just because people don’t want to lead a change process doesn’t mean they don’t want change.• Ask your internal community what they would like to see in the museum. Insightful and positive.• Keep talking – even when people don’t like what you are saying, keep saying it – tactfully.• Know when you have said enough.
    23. 23. Reflections: volunteers• If you recruit volunteers from different cultural backgrounds, more will come• Volunteers like project – something with a beginning, a middle and an end• Keep talking• Take their advice
    24. 24. Reflections: external stakeholders • Tell people what you are doing • Especially tell local Councillors and key Council officers • Building relationships takes time • Find good partners to work with
    25. 25. Has the been change? Yes there has been change - renewed enthusiasm, forward thinking, inclusiveness, defined direction forfuture of museum and collection policy more business-like, changed community involvement, development of schoolprograms, deaccessioning progress, clean up.
    26. 26. Yes, a more friendly feeling and a cooperation with everyone. It seems much more organized, and more business like.
    27. 27. appearance of the museum entrances, good quality exhibition WHICH WE DID OURSELVESAND DIDNT HAVE TO GET CONSULTANTS IN FOR (yay), better relationship with CRC and other organisations partly because a museum professional is now fronting the organisation (and because of your pre-existing networks), important documents updated, significance statements for objects, better accessioning process, shed situation more under control, new and creativetypes of outreach activities as well as the trailer.
    28. 28. I would have like to see more stuff being culled more quickly however I appreciate the delicacyof the matter. Having taken the de-accessioningmore slowly seems to have worked wonders. It’samazing that XX has even agreed to the printing press being relocated (even if it isn’t to the dump)
    29. 29. The Cairns in 1942 display has clean features full of interesting information and contrasts markedly with the rest of the displays in the Museum. I can’t wait for them all to be revamped.
    30. 30. What could we have done better/differently with hindsight?Still nervous about shed clean-up and what has been discarded/is being discarded givenaccession for those objects was so minimal - arewe throwing out stuff which we dont know the significance of?
    31. 31. Importance of respecting the past contributions of section leaders & various volunteers
    32. 32. I would have liked to see something done about the shop. Our love for XX made it hard to make hard decisions. I don’t think we should feel bad about caring about our members …
    33. 33. Are we doing the right thing?