As part of our HLF Stage 2 submission for the Courtyard Project, Manchester Museum needs to produce an ‘Activity Plan’ – this is an essential document that sets out how we want to engage the public in 2020 and what we will do in the interim to make those activities a reality. This is a really exciting and creative period for us as an organisation – it’s a chance to take stock of what we do really well and to think about the kind of place we want to be in 3 years time – what do we want people to be able to do here? How might our communities, both local and further afield, shape these programmes and events? What kind of social impact might we make? These are big, exciting decisions and it’s fascinating to start to embrace change.
At the heart of this work is our desire to become a ‘Museum for Life’ – an organisation that can connect with people at every life stage and within the rich tapestry of life events that we all experience. This is the underpinning concept for the Courtyard Project and something we want to thoroughly explore. We knew we wanted lots of input both internal and external into this and one of our first events happened in March. Working with an external facilitator, Alan Heckman, we ran a morning workshop with a cross section of Museum staff – from staff who run our shop, to those involved in building management or exhibitions. This workshop helped us to explore what Museum for Life meant for each of us within our roles and our aspirations for the Museum in 2020. Alan’s way of working – through consensus – was brilliant for helping us to all have a say and to start to find common themes and threads amongst the aspects we thought most important. Not everything was new within our shared vision for Museum for Life – or by any means complete – but we saw a strong shared focus on continuing to use the collection to be relevant, diverse, fun and engaging. It was clear we have ambitious international aims and want to be recognised as a great Museum but within that we also aspire to be a democratic space for our communities, empowering action where we can.
It was an uplifting morning that made me feel like we had really started our journey to 2020. There was a definite optimism and sense of energy for the future. To continue this, we spent the afternoon working on the most bonkers and fantastic programmes and events we could think of – all collection based. Armed with magazines for collage, all the coloured pens you could want, a (entirely fictional…) million pound budget and all the aspirations of the morning session – staff set off drawing and creating what they wanted to see in 2020, if money were no object. It must be said that the outcomes were brilliant (and at times hilariously drawn!) – ranging from toads on the roads (a portable vivarium) to Museum funeral services; dreams of epic fashion shows inspired by the collection to open kitchens for community cooking. We can’t say that these events will happen in their entirety but this was exactly the kind of start we wanted to help us carve out the areas of activity development we want to concentrate on.
To follow this up, the engagement team will be running this workshop with all staff within the Museum, our volunteers and even some external groups – all of this will help to shape the Activity Plan we develop over the coming months.