Date: 14th February 2017
We had a very busy day facilitating the Symbiosis seminar at the London Transport Museum. The day was filled with vibrant discussion on how museums should interact with industry.
The seminar was very well attended with 19 delegates from a range of museums as listed below:
- Silk Museum, Macclesfield
- Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture
- The Hat Works – Hatting Museum
- Queens and PWRR Regiment Museum
- The Port Sunlight Village Trust
- Village Church Farm
- Museum of Carpet
- The Georgian Theatre Royal
- British Optical Association Museum
- Ramsey Rural Museum
- The Bursledon Brickworks
- The Food Museum
- Kingston Museum
- Alexandra Palace and Park Charitable Trust
- Museum of Design in Plastics
Professor Susan Lambert, Curator of the Museum of Design in Plastics, made a presentation introducing the Symbiosis Project, which forms part of the Arts Council Museum Resilience Fund which is working towards the empowerment of smaller museums to develop effective collaborative projects with industry and hence become more commercially sustainable.
Susan explained the need for a step change in understanding the potential for knowledge exchange, the ability of staff to engage and the development of leadership skills in engaging with industry.
The project will involve a small number of partner museums who will explore how collaborative projects can support museum priorities, consider the barriers that are encountered and form their individual commercial offer to industry.
Susan explained how the programme will use the expertise of an industrial consultant, who will assist with the overcoming of barriers, help in understanding the commercial opportunities that are available and ultimately work with the museums in identifying their commercial offer.
The programme will start with the launch seminar and further dialogue will be made via telephone calls with the partner museums throughout the duration of the project. This activity will culminate in a masterclass lead by the industry consultant to discuss how the learning outcomes from the project can be transferred to other organisations.
The morning session continued with a very interesting presentation made by the London Transport Museum. They have a significant resource for engaging with relevant stakeholders in their sector, raising money through corporate membership and sponsorship, with support from trusts and foundations as well as public funding. A Patrons Circle and Friends membership has been developed to assist in fundraising activity and collaborative projects.
Other projects that were introduced included a return to work programme for the long term unemployed.
The presentation was very interesting in terms of how a larger museum approaches the aspect of fundraising and collaborations with various stakeholders.
During the day, a number breakout sessions were held during which several questions were put to the group as listed below:
1. How can museums benefit from engaging with business and industry in their sectors?
- Profile raising
- Networking/building relationships
- Donation of artefacts
- Raising money
- Meeting museum objectives
- Collection of knowledge
- Staffing/access to resource
- Equipment, cutting edge
- Increased relevance
- Marketing capacity
- Future stability
- Embedded in industry
- Enthuse industry
- Wider reach
- Develop social history
- Business archives/artefacts
2. What are your museum’s current priorities?
- Engaging students and researchers /learning and education
- Commercial development
- Preserve and protect
- Increase visitor numbers
- Centre of expertise
- Establish and maintain reputation for expertise and specialist knowledge
- Providing inspired learning opportunities
- Interpret social history
- Maintain and make safe (machinery)
- Income through space letting
- Develop collection ad visitor experience
- Sustainability / survival
- Museum redevelopment
- Community/adult programmes
- Activity plan (educational/outreach)
- Fulfilling objects of the trust
- Fulfilling terms of grants.
3. What is your museum’s unique commercial offer?
- Access to historical artefacts /collection/archives
- Brand heritage/reputation preservation
- Access to expert knowledge/consultancy
- Showcase/selling opportunity
- Use of buildings for weddings, parties etc.
- Use of buildings/location for tv, films etc.
- Licensing of images or collections
- Unique heritage of television beginnings
- Space letting opportunities
- Enhancement of reputation through meaningful connections and networking
4. What are the barriers to engagement?
- Identify company and person/ how to approach
- Lack of commercial/legal knowledge
- Competitors (other museums)
- Corporate bureaucracy
- Identifying the offer
- Exploitation of the museum
- Perceived lack of interest
- Ensuring return on investment
- Restrictions on engagement (funding guidelines)
- The trustees (resource or barrier?)
5. What resources would you find useful in developing industry collaborations?
- To be able to practice the sales pitch and get feedback
- Information on going rates for work, what should we charge?
- Case studies (charges, long or short term)
- How to develop an offer/think commercially
- Advice on best medium to use for promotion (films, events)
- Template of standard questions
- Collaboration network
The questions raised created a great deal of debate amongst the group, this culminated in the delegates completing a feedback form detailing their reaction to the day
Jeremy Pingstone (Industry Consultant to the Symbiosis project)