Friday, February 15, 2008

GEM conference thoughts

This year's GEM conference was advertised today (4-7 September, Leicester
The blurb said: "As government and funding priorities shift to fulfil expanding learning and social agendas, are heritage organisations being realistic in trying to be "all things to all people?"
Every Audience Matters provides an active and in-depth exploration of how we can meet these growing demands, and addresses the wider implications of our evolving roles, from regional, national and international perspectives.
The three days focus on:
Diverse Learners
Diverse Audiences
Diverse Organisations"

This looks like a really useful conference. I had a couple of thoughts. The first is that I'm not sure that many organisations do try to be 'all things to all people' in shifting their focus towards excluded audiences and an educational mission. Many that are making this shift are building strong relationships with some very specific groups, which is generally 'a good thing'. It is true perhaps that these organisations are becoming 'quite a lot of things to some particular people'. I sometimes wonder whether it is possible to target specific groups a bit too much and to make assumptions that their strongest interests or identifications are what your programmes should be all about. This is a potentially controversial view, expressed tentatively.

The second thought is a gentle musing about the fact that there are two separate days on Learners and Audiences. Now, if museums are for learning and if learning experiences encompass everything including inspiration and enjoyment (ILfA), what is the difference? Of course, we would categorise a student taking part in a museum-based course as a 'learner', but they are also an audience for a cultural experience. We would also categorise a tourist wandering into a museum, passing by the shop and out again, as an audience member rather than a learner, but even at their most passive they are learning something simply by looking around them. The false differentiation can cause problems between teams in organisations, in funding bids and in scoping new projects. I'd be interested to hear comments from anyone who has views on this distinction.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Yet more projects

Here's the same post again, or rather the same excuse, different details. But hopefully you'll find these links interesting. Flow are working on two more projects:

We're helping the Wellcome Trust to scope the feasibility of touring exhibitions for young people, promoting the kinds of creating learning about biomedicine and science in general that are exemplified by the Pulse Awards that they fund.
I've been a fan of the Wellcome's exhibitions for a long time, even going back to the early 90's when they had tiny little shows hidden in their library building. This is a unique mix of galleries, events and meeting, reading and eating places, dedicated to exploring the connections between medicine, life and art. The opening exhibition is all about the heart.

Another job is working for the Sonic Arts Network, doing a small piece of research for the Education team about their award-winning Sonic Postcards, focusing on 'hard to reach' young people.

I'm also a bit busy as a school governor at the wonderful Edmund Waller Primary School in SE14. Because I'm the 'link governor' for art and literacy, I'm involved in an ambitious project all about books, working with Michael Rosen, printmaker Brian McKenzie and other creative contributors. Last week, we visited the British Library with a year 5 and year 2 group. I did a couple of workshops with them. It was quite an interesting experience, visiting with a school group, as until March 2006 I was head of learning there. It had been hard at the time to be in touch with children's responses to the collections as I had to spend so much time in meetings. The children also had a workshop in the Sacred exhibition, which was very sumptuous.