What a year …

OK it’s been a while since my first (and last) blog post – ‘flu, Christmas and lots of work has meant that I haven’t prioritised this. That will change!

So I thought that a bit of a reflective piece on my journey over the last year might be in order …

I think that place to really start is with an amazing programme that I’ve had the honour to have been a part of throughout 2019 and the first part of this year – the Museum Resilience and Leadership programme led by Black Country Living Museum and funded by Arts Council England. It was a bit of a surprise that I was even part of it this year as I had been offered a deferred placement and a few days before it was due to start I received a phone call to say that someone had pulled out and I was next on the waitlist – you have 30 minutes to decide. I didn’t even need 1 minute before I said yes.

3 days later it started, an intense residential to kick start the programme meeting the ‘faculty’ and 14 other cohort members. Whilst completely scary to meet that many people, present a 2 minute TED style talk on leadership and amazingly long, thought provoking days it was the perfect way to start our journey. Monthly workshops and an overseas study visit have, I believe, made me think more holistically about museums not just my specialism of learning, visitor engagement & participation but also ‘knowing the numbers’ and how commercial operations work and support the whole. Each month there has been a different venue to visit and inspirational leaders to meet, with something that resonates with my work. Some of my highlights have been the conversations and support from every member of the faculty and cohort who have given support and been a sounding board through challenges, ideas and in setting up as a consultant as well as meeting lots of inspirational and amazing leaders like Elaine Gurian, discussing our ethics, role and limits, and the colleagues I met in Chicago.

For me Winnie the Pooh sums up MRL for me with – “It isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said I’m here for you and proved it.”

OK – I started this blog post a few weeks ago and then everything changed and I mean everything!  

I was going to talk about some of the learnings in particular from my MRL journey, I’d planned different blog topics around different subjects – and then Covid-19 hit us all.

Through the last year I found the confidence in myself and my business knowledge and I registered as a heritage consultant. I made the decision to continue in my full time role as a Learning & Community Officer with the National Trust while I found my feet as a consultant. Thank goodness I did – now hands up who’s been furloughed. Yep me too!

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest, from thinking that we had a couple of weeks to plan – no one watching the unfolding pandemic could deny that at some point we would close – however I mistakenly thought that we had time. A few days later, we’re going to close in this way and coming up with creative and new (for us anyway) ways to engage with our visitors on the webpages and our social media platforms, to you’re going to be furloughed. It’s for the best for the charity and we can always use the ideas that we came up with in the future in new and exciting ways.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the #museumathome and all the options for engaging with the arts in all forms online. I’m also looking to the future thinking through what I love about heritage education and how I want to make a in difference in people’s lives. There’s also the love and support from the @GEM_heritage and @MRLprogramme communities as well as many others that’s keeping us all going.

Truly, they are strange times that we’re living through.

(c) Melissa Kate Maynard

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