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Creating the Mshed

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Overview

Who: UWE academic historians and the Bristol Museum Service

What: Co-opted to advise on the contents of the MShed Museum scheduled to open in 2011

Why: To advise both MShed and the Bristol Museum Service on building ongoing programmes utilising university research in support of ongoing exhibitions and online museum presence.

Where: Bristol

When: Scheduled to open in 2011

Project description

This project has forged a unique working relationship between academic historians and the Bristol Museum Service. The academics have worked closely with contents management, design and curatorial and educational outreach team at the MShed. In addition, Madge Dresser heads the Academic Advisory Group and a smaller working party whose brief is to advise both MShed and the Bristol Museum Service on building ongoing programmes utilising university research in support of ongoing exhibitions and online museum presence.

"Good research is not elitist - it is essential for the production of good public history."

"Academic perspectives are enriched by engaging with the public."

Purpose

To ensure both curators and historians are in communication so that up to date academic research informs curatorial decisions and that the research of academic historians and other researchers take advantage of the insights afforded by contact with curatorial and educational staff at the museum.

Results and outcomes

What worked well

So far, many synergies have emerged. Academics can help time-starved curators locate objects, and contextualise and add depth to exhibitions. Curators bring new material to attention of historians. Both groups enhance each other’s range of contacts.

What didn't work well

The complexity of the project sometimes impeded communications between academic and museum staff and system for registering research findings was difficult to establish especially given time and financial pressures.

Top Tips

  1. Establish opportunities for curators, historians and designers to meet directly about artefacts and direction of exhibition
  2. Ensure simple and transparent means of recording/registering research findings
  3. Involve educational and front of house staff as well as management in the process of building the content and liaising with public
  4. Be bold, don’t shy away from difficult political and conceptual issues

Contact

Name: Madge Dresser

Name of organisation: Dept of History, Politics and Philosophy, University of the West of England

Email: madge.dresser@uwe.ac.uk

Telephone: 0117 3284388