Museum Participation

"Inspiring..." Nina Simon, Author, The Participatory Museum
"Should inspire us all..." Piotr Bienkowski, Paul Hamlyn Foundation
"Highly recommended..." Dr Viv Golding, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

Genuine participation is about much more than simply “taking part”.  But many museums’ commitment to engagement and participation remains at this superficial level. Larger museums, in particular, struggle to engage with their communities in genuinely participatory ways. And often, although the museum may be committed to social change - it has difficulty in changing itself. 

So what does true participation involve? The sharing of authority, decision-making and power. And letting go of the boundaries between the professional and the public.

Museum Participation: New Directions for Audience Collaboration
 provides examples of inspirational participative practice within larger museums and galleries throughout the world, as well as provocative and challenging thinking from eminent professionals. It shows what is being done, and how it can be done. 

Lavishly-illustrated, in its 636 pages Museum Participation will help you and your institution think through the wide-ranging opportunities and important practicalities involved in enabling genuine participation.

In 30 thought-provoking chapters and detailed case studies, world-class museums and leading professionals share their understanding and experience of audience participation, including:

  1. Art Gallery of Ontario
  2. Birmingham Museums
  3. British Museum
  4. Glasgow Museums
  5. Indianapolis Museum of Art
  6. Qatar Museums
  7. Museums Sheffield
  8. National Museum Wales
  9. National Trust
  10. Natural History Museum, London
  11. The Whitworth, Manchester

This comprehensive, lavishly-illustrated, 636-page handbook includes 30 essays and case studies:

Kayte McSweeney (Object Journeys Partnership Manager, British Museum) and Jen Kavanagh (Independent Curator)

1. Definitions and Directions
Museums Tied Up In Knots
Bernadette Lynch, Honorary Research Associate | University College London

Defining Participation: An Inquiry Into Practices in the Dutch Art World
Anna Elffers & Emilie Sitzia, Arts & Heritage | Maastricht University

Participatory Intercultural Practice: Leveraging Challenges as Strengths
David Henry, PhD Candidate | University of Melbourne (formerly Senior Programs Officer, Immigration Museum, Melbourne)

Rethinking Participatory Practice in a Web 2.0 World
Oonagh Murphy, Professor of Visual Arts Management | Richmond, the American International University in London

2. Approaches and Journeys
It’s About Us
Kim Streets, CEO | Museums Sheffield

My Museum Project at Qatar Museums
Alexandra Bennett (Head of Community Outreach) & Huda Al Yafai (Head of Library) | Qatar Museums

Creating Relevance Through Participatory Exhibition Planning
Jason Dake, Curator of Education | Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, Michigan

Testing Models of Working for Engagement and Participation
Sam Willis, Visitor Experience Consultant | National Trust

Citizen Science: Participation in Authentic Science Research
Lucy D Robinson (Citizen Science Programme Manager), Jade L Cawthray (Citizen Science Project Officer), Dai Lee (Learning Volunteer Engagement Manager) and John C Tweddle (Head of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity) | Natural History Museum, London

Honouring Through Ceremony: Walking With Our Sisters
Nadia Kurd, Curator | Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada

Putting the Visitor at the Centre of Practice
Silvia Filippini Fantoni (Director of Interpretation, Media and Evaluation) and Tiffany Leason (Manager of Audience Research and Evaluation) | Indianapolis Museum of Art

Collections, People, Stories: The Symposium and Community Engagement
Julia Cort (Community Learning Manager) and Rachel Harrison (Community Engagement Officer) | Horniman Museum and Gardens, London

Co-curating With Adolescents 
Patrizia Cerutti (Head of School and Family Programmes) and Maria Xanthoudaki (Director of Education) | National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci, Milan, Italy

3. Changes and Shifts
Museums Are Not Representative (And This is a Good Thing for Participation)
Helen Graham, Director, Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage | University of Leeds

Moving the Margins: Collaboration and Consultation
Martin Craig (Learning & Access Curator), Susie Ironside (Visitor Studies Curator), Iona McCann (Public Engagement Co-ordinator) and Aileen Strachan (Research Manager, Learning and Audiences) | Glasgow Museums

Engaging and Involving Audiences with Co-creation and Participation
Janja Rebolj (Head of Adult Programmes) and Nika Damjanovič (Museum Educator) | Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Community Engagement: Challenging the Authorised Narrative
Nazia Ali (Curator) | Birmingham Museums and David Callaghan | Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage

Pioneering Partnerships
Neil R Johnson-Symington and Heather A Robertson (Curators of Transport and Technology) | Glasgow Museums

Partnerships and Plurality: Community Participation and Evolving Practices
Lorna Cruickshanks (Community Partnerships Team, British Museum) and Siân Hunter Dodsworth (Adult Programming, National Gallery, London)

Play Your Part: From Audiences to Activists
Catherine O’Donnell, Engagement and Events Officer | People’s History Museum, Manchester

Participation at St Fagans: National History Museum
Stephanie Burge (Our Museum Co-ordinator), Owain Rhys (Community Participation and Engagement Manager) and Nia Williams (Head of Learning, Participation and Interpretation) | St Fagans: National History Museum, Cardiff

Danger! Men at Work: Cultural Engagement with Older Men
Ed Watts, Engagement Manager | The Whitworth, Manchester

Youth Engagement
Esther Amis-Hughes, Youth Engagement Officer | Leeds Museums and Galleries

4. Impact and Futures
Participatory Practices in Museums: A Seismic Shift?
Tracy-Ann Smith (Diversity in Heritage Group) and Kalliope Fouseki (Lecturer, Institute for Sustainable Heritage, UCL, London)

How Does Co-created Exhibition Content Enhance Visitor Experiences?
Lucie Fitton (Head of Learning & Participation, The Audience Agency) and Kayte McSweeney (Object Journeys Partnership Manager, British Museum)

The Art of the Allotment
Magdalena Zych, Cultural Anthropologist | Ethnographic Museum, Kraków, Poland

Planning for Participatory Exhibitions: Bringing Community Voices to the Forefront
Shiralee Hudson Hill (Interpretive Planner), Denise Roberts (Digital Interpretive Planner) and Keri Ryan (Associate Director, Interpretation and Visitor Research) | Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Roma Engagement in Project Design
Adriana Avram (Head of Department) and Oana Burcea (Curator) | ASTRA National Museum Complex, Sibiu, Romania

A Reflection on Participation
Richard Sandell, Professor of Museum Studies | University of Leicester

Kayte McSweeney is the Object Journeys Partnership Manager at the British Museum. This programme seeks to embed community-led exhibition development practice at the museum and explore new and meaningful ways to collaborate with the public. Previously a Senior Audience Advocate at the Science Museum, London, Kayte worked advocating for the diverse needs of audiences during the development of major exhibitions. However, in recent years her work has been focused on participatory and community collaborative practice, including the evaluation of these projects.

Having studied History at Trinity College Dublin, Kayte followed her ambition to work in museums through an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at University College London. Ever passionate about championing valuable audience experiences, Kayte is Chair of the Visitor Studies Group. Her publications include co-authoring "Embedding Plurality: Exploring Participatory Practice in the Development of a New Permanent Gallery", in the Science Museum Group Journal, 2015.

Jen Kavanagh is an independent curator and museum professional. Having completed her MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester, Jen moved to London in 2007 to embark on a career in the heritage sector. Her focus is on participatory and collaborative practice, and contemporary collecting, including oral history. Previous roles include Community Curator at London Transport Museum, Audience Engagement Manager for the Information Age gallery at the Science Museum, and Senior Curator of Contemporary History at Museum of London. Jen curated Tattoo London at Museum of London, and is a curator for the Punk London project taking place throughout 2016. 

She is the Treasurer for the Social History Curators Group, and a mentor for AMA candidates with the Museums Association. Her publications include "Collecting Challenging Contemporary Histories: Terrorist Attacks in London and New York City" in Collecting the Contemporary (MuseumsEtc, 2014). 

Nina Simon | Executive Director, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History | Author, The Participatory Museum:
Think community participation is just for small museums? Think again. This inspiring volume is packed with thoughtful examples of leading museums around the world involving their visitors in their work to powerful effect.

Piotr Bienkowski | Project Director, Our Museum Programme | Paul Hamlyn Foundation: 
Between them, the case studies and reflections in this book encapsulate the principles and practice of effective deep participation - both in exhibitions and in sharing authority around wider organisational strategies - without minimising the difficulties of this way of working. Participation is the only sustainable future for museums and galleries, and this book should inspire us all to get better at embedding it until it becomes part of our museums’ DNA.

Dr Viv Golding | Programme Director of Learning & Visitor Studies, Senior Lecturer in Communication & Education | School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester:
This is a challenging volume of international essays outlining radical museum practice – commoning – whereby entrenched top-down power hierarchies and disabling cultural politics are broken in progressing sustainable relationships with diverse audiences. I highly recommend this book to everyone concerned with the potential of the contemporary museum to promote equality and human rights.

Museum Participation: New Directions for Audience Collaboration
Editors Kayte McSweeney and Jen Kavanagh
Pages 636
Colour illustrations 114
Size 216 x 140 mm
Publication April 2016
Editions £85 [paperback] | £65 [eBook] 
ISBN 978-1-910144-78-7 [paperback]  

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