Marketing, Professional development

Emma’s skills roundup: Free webinars, conferences and more for museum professionals

Lucy West, curatorial trainee, Hull Central Library, 2016
Lucy West, curatorial trainee, Hull Central Library, 2016

Looking to upskill, broaden your experience or share knowledge with peers? Our programme manager Emma Coleman rounds up her pick of resources and training opportunities to check out this month.

It’s really important to us at Art Fund that we not only provide funding to help museums weather the impact of Covid-19, but empower the people behind our museums, galleries and historic places with the skills to adapt to a new future.

From some of my recent chats with people in the museum sector, I’m aware that one thing we’re all missing most at the moment is the opportunity to network with national and international colleagues; to have face-to-face conversations and share knowledge, insight and helpful advice.

We may have to wait a little longer for those in-person opportunities, but we’re keen to create a space here to share with you some of the most useful resources, training and development opportunities we’ve come across recently. In my new column I'll be rounding up my pick of opportunities that I’ve come across on my (online) travels; do get in touch if there’s something you think we should be featuring or anything I’ve missed. I’m really keen to hear what you’ve found helpful and would recommend to others.

Here are a few current highlights to get you started.

Digital learning from MuseumNext

MuseumNext have recently made available free ‘digital conferences’ bringing together the best presentations from previous live events. Their Digital Sessions 1 features talks about making change happen in museums. Although all the talks are from pre-Covid times, for me they maintain relevancy and poignancy in the current climate, and provide some interesting provocations for how this moment provides an opportunity to make positive change.

All the talks are great viewing, though one particular session that stands out for me is Welcome to the Funhouse from Scott Stulen, director at Philbrook Museum of Art in Oklahoma. Scott talks about how the museum has created a culture that responds to risk, embracing radical transparency and experimentation. He gives tips for making small changes with a low cost but a high perceived value, improving audiences’ experience and prioritising accessibility and inclusion. The video is less than 30 minutes but provides a lot of inspiration, and is definitely worth a watch.

Engaging your digital audiences

It’s been really inspiring to see the innovative and creative ways museums have worked to engage people digitally over the last six months, whether in creating online exhibitions to share collections, or offering digital family resources.

The Arts Marketing Association has a free webinar on getting to know your online audiences, which is likely to be a really useful resource at this time when a lot of museums may be developing blended in-person and digital activities. The webinar offers practical tips to help you better understand who you’re reaching online, and how to communicate with them effectively.

And if you’ve been considering dipping a toe in the podcasting waters to reach more people and share stories in new ways, Hannah Hethmon has a brilliant blog post on super quick DIY podcasting. In this comprehensive but easily digestible how-to, Hannah offers practical tips on recording, editing and publishing, which could get you up and running with your own podcast in just a few weeks.

Free conference exploring the future of museums

I think we’re all missing the opportunity that conferences provide to network with both UK and international colleagues, so I was really pleased to see that the Museum Ideas 2020 conference will be offered online for free.

This conference always brings together a broad range of voices from international institutions, and this year the focus will be on pioneering ideas that could shape the future of museums – exploring progressive public engagement, collaborative and socially engaged participatory practice, and social impact.

The online conference will take place in October, with further details of the programme coming soon. It looks to be a fantastic opportunity to get inspired by museums across the world.

Art Fund & AAMC partnership

On the subject of connecting with international colleagues, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Art Fund’s recent partnership with the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC), which brought together museum professionals from both sides of the pond to discuss museums’ responses to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Our webinar Beyond Statements: Taking Action sought to advance the conversation on structural racism by exploring how museums can follow up on recent statements of support with tangible actions to address racial diversity, equity, and inclusive environments.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend taking the time to watch the full webinar if you’re able, though if you’re short on time, one particular segment that a lot of the participants found really valuable was Monica Montgomery’s insights into, and examples of, making museums accountable for racial equity (from 28:55).

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