There’s real value in preserving the past

"Museums might give a glimpse of our past, but they never stand still." Picture: Phil Wilkinson."Museums might give a glimpse of our past, but they never stand still." Picture: Phil Wilkinson.
"Museums might give a glimpse of our past, but they never stand still." Picture: Phil Wilkinson.
Museums sector is responding to new challenges, says Joanne Orr

From Shetland to Selkirk, almost 25 million people are visiting Scotland’s museums and galleries each year. Walking through the doors, they find a friendly welcome and a fascinating insight into Scotland’s rich culture and history.

At Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), we’re passionate about not just preserving cultural artefacts, but educating and inspiring new generations. Museums might give a glimpse of our past, but they never stand still. We’re continually working with museums to find new ways to reach out to their communities, appeal to new audiences, and build a workforce for the future.

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After becoming the National Delivery Body last year, we published a Delivery Plan, From Strategy to Action, that provided a structured approach towards achieving the aims and objectives of the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries.

Now, a year later, MGS is reporting on this plan. One Year On: Turning Actions into Advocacy, reveals a vibrant museums sector that is building a workforce for the future and appealing to diverse populations in Scotland and beyond. The new report outlines MGS’s work over the past year in line with priority areas for sector development as outlined in the Delivery Plan.

A year later, many of the aims set out in the Delivery Plan are well on their way to being realised. MGS has been able to leverage its position as National Development Body to supply additional funding for the sector. Working with partners, it has secured support through the Heritage Lottery Fund for major skills development opportunities to address sector needs. This includes internships and non-graduate vocational traineeships to inspire and train a new generation to work in the sector.

Our position as National Development body gives us an overview of the sector. We know that for museums to continue serving their communities, and provide Scotland with a top quality educational resource, they must move toward new models of sustainability. That is why we sponsor the Enterprising Museum award at the Arts & Business Scotland Awards. The prize encourages innovative or entrepreneurial museum projects that have delivered ambitious high-impact experiences.

Last year, the award was given to Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) for its project 21 Revolutions: Two Decades of Changing Minds at Glasgow Women’s Library. In the face of stiff competition from other projects, GWL won with a creative endeavour that brought some of the most significant names in Scottish art and literature together to create new works to commemorate the diverse collections of Glasgow Women’s Library. These were then produced as limited edition prints and sold to generate income at a dedicated and touring exhibition.

Dr Adele Patrick from Glasgow Women’s Library said: “Being nominated for the Enterprising Museum Award was hugely morale-boosting for the Glasgow Women’s Library team but winning proved to be a real watershed in our 23-year history.

“As a result we have garnered a huge amount of goodwill, press and media attention, nominations for further awards and the invaluable support of Arts and Business Scotland.

“The whole team has been buoyed by winning this very prestigious award making us all more ambitious and committed to achieving more and it has undoubtedly changed the public’s perception of our contribution to Scottish culture and awareness and recognition of our role in the museums and cultural field and within the third sector.”

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We’re encouraging similarly forward-looking museums with innovative projects to apply for the 2014 award.

Projects must have taken place throughout 2013 or 2014 and must be complete or near completion by the application deadline, 4 August.

Scotland is fortunate in its number and quality of museums. Each one is unique, and by working together we can continue to develop and celebrate our rich cultural sector and bring our past and present to life for new generations.

l Joanne Orr is chief executive officer of Museums Galleries Scotland