Managing Collections – Week 0

Introductory talk – PRE-RECORDED
11-1: Introduction to the course and group project – LIVE
2-3.30: Group Project Meetings – LIVE
3.30-4: Q+A on Project – LIVE

This week we had an introduction to the Managing Collections and Exhibitions course. We covered the aims of the course, which includes to equip students with a range of critical, theoretical, methodological and professional knowledge and skills for the management of collections and development of exhibitions. It focuses on strategies and current good practice of documentation, collection management and conservation. The Learning outcomes are too many to list here, but the outcomes that are particularly interesting to me include those I have little or no experience of. Such as: the anaylsis of the role of audiences in collection documentation and exhibition development. Practical skills I am most in need of include using collection management software, performing basic object conservation and developing an online exhibition.

We also had a presentation on Managing Projects with Andy Hardman. We have been separated into project groups of 7 and were required to nominate a group leader who will oversee and organise the project, ensuring it is completed to time and communication is kept open and transparent. Each student will learn these skills, even if they are not acting as Group Leader for this project. The tips on good practice in project management have come at a convenient and important time for me – in my role as Volunteer Project Coordinator at CFCCA I am beginning to develop these skills at my own pace in conjunction with the course. I am learning these skills directly in correlation to it – consistently reviewing, developing and learning about my own project management ‘style’ and the best way to communicate openly with team members. I will use my experience and lend my skills to support the AGMS group leader, and hope that simultaneously I gain a more comprehensive understanding of project work as a participant for one project, and a coordinator in another. The key attributes of good practice in project management were listed as follows:

  • Clear roles and responsibilities
  • Clear reporting lines
  • Openness of communication
  • Simplicity

The good project management ‘five C’s’ are: Clear brief. Common sense. Co-ordination. Creativity. Communication.

These books were recommended by Andy during the introductory talk.

The four stages of every project includes 1. Planning: defining the problem; identifying stakeholders; mapping out goals and objectives; determine resources. 2. Build-Up: Assemble the team; plan the tasks; develop a schedule. 3. Implementation: the project is underway. Monitor and report progress; hold weekly meetings; manage problems. 4. Closeout: evaluate project performance; debrief the team; develop a post-evaluation report. In reflection of this I think that the planning stage for the project I coordinate, the Art of Volunteering, was cut too short. I had minimal time to plan the project as I was furloughed for several weeks in the lead up. I was therefore required to launch straight into recruitment and the complicated application process. I improvised and undertook the planning stage as I built up the team, and combined stages 1 and 2. Organisation and scheduling of tasks were delayed slightly due to a gallery closure when a member of CFCCA staff team tested positive for COVID-19. So until now, week 3 of 10, I have been attempting to catch up. I have been able to rely on the rigid monitoring, documentation and planning documents that all European Social Fund (ESF) projects use.

After meeting with my project group for the first time and introducing one another, we allocated a Group Leader. 3 members of the group were willing to act as Group Leader, each with varying experiences and with different skills they could bring to the role. In order to avoid a voting process and creating tension within the group at such an early stage, I suggested we ‘put names in a hat’. This process worked very well and it was generally agreed this was the most fair method. We spent the rest of the meeting discussing potential themes for our project and beginning to form other roles with the team.

Our project will be on the topic of contemporary collecting of Covid-19 to produce an online exhibition, including a full proposal. I had been reading about contemporary collecting in preparation and so had thought about some potentials and begun to formulate some ideas. After some discussion we identified the preliminary over-arching theme of ‘Identity’, with the sub-themes of Religion, Age, Disability and Class. These are marginalised groups we identified as being either affected by the pandemic or thrown into some ‘relief’ as a result of it. We each expressed an interest in one of the sub-themes, and were allocated one each. Due to there being an odd number in the group, instead of one person having to collect around a single theme alone without support, a group of 3 formed instead. In addition to the reading and work we have been assigned by Kostas for next weeks seminar, our group will each be undertaking these tasks:

  • Undertake research into our sub-themes (mine is religion) with the intention of narrowing our over-arching theme down further and focusing our purpose.
  • Write a paragraph about our experience of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
  • Watch a tutorial video about ‘artsteps’

In addition to this, I have expressed an interest in focusing on Audiences and how this will effect interpretation and accessibility. I believe this area is most relevant to my skills and experience as I work so closely with the audience at CFCCA, enjoy working with people, have a good understanding of Audience Spectrum and audience development. Furthermore, I attended a webinar by the Audience Spectrum which detailed how each audience profile has been affected by the pandemic, and how arts organisations can cater their marketing, messaging, digital offer and safety procedures to appeal to each group. During the next meeting I will propose our intended audience based on these audience spectrum profiles by presenting a document, and hope this will inform our approach to themes and the collecting process. I think that deciding on who the project is for should be a crucial step in the planning stage.

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