Musings from the Group for Education in Museums conference 2019

Hi all,

After a few days at the GEM Conference chatting with colleagues and discussing good practice and listening to inspiring key note speeches and hearing about some amazing projects in the sector I thought that I’d share some key takeaways for me and some twitter links.

What better way to start a new blog?

Deconstructing the conference title by keynote speaker Piotr Bienkowski

So the theme this year was forging dynamic and lasting partnerships with communities and please note some of these takeaways are more of a reminder than a light-bulb moment!

  1. Should we start using the term communities not community to reflect the multiplicity of the community?
  2. We should constantly challenge what communities mean
  3. Who is not in the room and why?
    1. The who means both audiences and team members.
    2. Usually the answer to the why is that the museum/gallery/historic site isn’t doing enough.
  4. Start from zero and be open to other approaches and agendas
  5. Working withby, for our communities should never be an optional add on – they are key
  6. Build reflective practice into everyday working
  7. Always call on your critical friends and use them wisely and in a timely manner throughout your daily work – they’re out there within and outside the Trust
  8. Ensure that our work is not tokenistic and that we build long lasting relationships with trust – it’s not a tick box exercise
  9. The money is the means not the end!
  10. Access preferences are key to meeting audience’s needs not their illness/disability – find out more about the EU funded research behind this at
  11. Grow interdisciplinary practice – bring in external skills – actively listen to, respect and learn from them
  12. Working together:
    1. Invest time at the start to understand US
    2. Map the assets and resources that we HAVE
    3. Find the balance between what WE want and what the GROUP wants – we need to stop hijacking the projects!
    4. Be transparent about budget and outputs
    5. Manage expectations
  13. If it goes pear-shaped –
    1. Be honest
    2. admit what went wrong
    3. hold our hands up and say we will do better next time

The GEM roundups for each day can be found here:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Some other people’s takeaways:

NLHF updates:

Strategic funding framework for 19-24 have the three following priorities:

  1. Community heritage made as accessible as possible
  2. Inclusive heritage
  3. Public involvement

Melissa Strauss’ guidance was:

  • Address local challenges and needs (wider issues ad benefits)
  • Think about ownership and power – “communities see their heritage tidied up and given back to them” this isn’t what is needed or wanted
  • New guidance on community participation is coming!

Culture, Health & Wellbeing guidance:

If you’re interested in ‘youth’ engagement and want to check out an inspirational and aspirational project: Brent 2020

So those are my musings from the inspiring and supportive GEM conference 2019.

NB GEM stands Group for Education in Museums and their website is

(c) Melissa Kate Maynard

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