Our Museum

About the initiative

Our Museum: Communities and Museums as Active Partners is an initiative to facilitate a process of development and organisational change within museums and galleries that are committed to active partnership within your communities, with the ambition of affecting the museum sector more widely.

This initiative aims to:

  • support and develop museums and galleries to place community needs, values, aspirations and active collaboration at the core of their work
  • involve communities and individuals in core decision-making processes and to implement the decisions taken
  • ensure that museums and galleries play an effective role in developing community skills, through volunteering, training, apprenticeships, etc.
  • share exemplary new models with the broader museum sector

The initiative is the culmination of a careful consultation process started in 2008 with market research company LUCID and a research phase led by Dr Bernadette Lynch. Her report (summarised in our publication Whose cake is it anyway?) concluded that the funding invested in recent years in public engagement and participation in the UK’s museums and galleries has not succeeded in shifting the work from the margins to the core of many of these organisations.

In fact, it has curiously done the opposite: by providing funding streams outside of core budgets, it appears to have helped keep the work on the organisations’ periphery. This situation is even clearer now that external funding streams are being cut and museums and galleries are scrambling for alternative sources of short-term funding to support their public engagement work.

We believe that there is now an opportunity to bring this type of work into the mainstream and focus strongly on longer-term impact and solutions, rather than continue to relegate participation to the margins. Many organisations within the museum sector are keen to find new ways of working, explore different business models and ways to make community participation central to what they do – rather than to be at the mercy of project funding.

Our Museum offers support for organisations to manage significant structural change. It is not about short-term project funding, but about facilitating organisational change so that participatory work becomes 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. Participation will be present throughout the programme and we hope that this methodology will prove both exemplary and inspiring. We will gather, document, analyse and disseminate compelling evidence of positive impact and best practice in museums and galleries of different sizes and types so that we can achieve significant shifts in participatory practice within the sector nationwide.

For news, events and information about Our Museum, please use the link on the right.