- Date: 16 January 2012
- Artform: Museums, Visual arts
- Area: South East
museumaker was a prestigious national project involving 16 museums across the country. The programme encouraged museums and makers to collaborate by providing financial support and expert advice, which enabled them to draw on each other's rich resources, take creative risks and trial new ideas.
Guildhall Museum was strongly attracted to museumaker because of the potential to strengthen engagement with existing visitor groups and reach new groups. The Museum also wanted to raise its profile.
The project was designed to explore the late 18th Century Seaton Tool Chest, once owned by Benjamin Seaton of Chatham, which houses a complete set of furniture making tools - many of them unused and in their original wrappings.
This was chosen because it is unique and of worldwide interest, and would benefit from being animated. The installation was an architect designed 'toolshed' installed in the museum's special exhibition room, which brought together tools created by the maker Cathy Miles, alongside a special re-display of the Seaton Tool Chest and wire tools created during the community engagement workshops. In her original proposal Cathy explained that: 'The project allows the audiences to make a connection between their personal objects and their local museum, in an immediate way and gives them an opportunity to participate in hands on making with support in a new space.'
The Museum thought the piece would stimulate a critical debate, but there were no critical comments at all. There was no vandalism or theft. Cathy was highly sensitive to the setting, and produced work of evident quality. Visitors were excited with, and inspired by it. They recognised the tools and enjoyed talking to Cathy.
The Museum only had limited experience of working with makers. The project was different because the maker was delivering her craft in front of people, not just in her studios.The programme opened the museum's eyes to the diversity of the crafts sector at a national level and also provided learning on commissioning.
The community engagement workshops went well. Cathy worked alongside the education officer in an equal partnership. Working with existing groups made the recruitment simpler and faster. One adult session had to be cancelled because of lack of interest, and, in the future, the Museum would spend more time identifying messages to market workshops to adults.
The amount of administration would put the Museum off engaging on a similar project in the future. The project took twice the staff time they expected, just because of the administration.
Peter Boreham, curator of the Rochester Museum, said: 'Projects should be aware of the lead in time to work with community partners. For example, schools work at least a term ahead.'
There can be extra costs of working with inaccessible populations. For example one group said they couldn't get to the Museum, but luckily the Museum was able to source transport.
The legacy from the museumaker project was:
You can download the full case study by Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd, which includes feedback from participants here.
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