The Paul Hamlyn Foundation has published an evaluation of the Revisiting Collections methodology, which encourages engagement with museum collections. The methodology was developed between 2005 and 2008 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) in partnership with the Collections Trust.
The document, commissioned by the PHF Special Initiative ‘Our Museum: Communities and Museums as Active Partners’, asks whether focusing on engaging people directly with collections helped deliver active participation and change organisations.
Over the past five years, the Revisiting Collections methodology, which challenges and supports museums and archives to involve communities in the core work of understanding, developing and interpreting collections, has been used to underpin a series of national and regional partnership programmes. It was employed during the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad major project ‘Stories of the World’, as well as independent projects in individual museums and archives.
However, to date, no resources have been available to evaluate how effective it was as a participative tool, and whether there are aspects of the methodology and its use which could be improved. The PHF Special Initiative ‘Our Museum’ provides an opportunity and resources for such an evaluation.
The report’s author, Caroline Reed, concludes that Revisiting Collections has made a valuable contribution to shaping and delivering active, collections-focused participation in museums and archives. While its tools and guidance could benefit from some updating and re-presentation, there is no evidence that the methodology has been superseded or overtaken either by major changes in professional practice or by technology. However, barriers to services using the methodology successfully still exist, and organisations and individual practitioners will continue to need support to overcome these.
A PHF Arts programme Special Initiative, ‘Our Museum’ offers support for organisations to manage significant structural change to improve community engagement. It works to facilitate organisational change in order for participatory work to become core, embedded, sustainable and less at risk of being marginalised when specific funding streams run out. The distinctive characteristic of ‘Our Museum’ is a collaborative and reflective learning process through which institutions and communities share their experiences and learn from each other as critical friends. PHF has awarded nine grants under this Special Initiative, each over a period of three years.
To view the report go to: http://www.phf.org.uk/news.asp?id=1905