Managing Collections – Week 5

  • We had our proposal feedback this week. There was 2 main pieces of feedback for us to consider: 1. ‘Hyperlocal targeting needs further explanation, what will there be for audiences outside the group?’ We did include a note about secondary audiences in the proposal: Whilst we aim to create a suitable space for KC to feel a sense of belonging in the arts and culture sector, it is imperative to note the difference between intended versus actual audiences, or the ‘imagined’ versus ‘real’ visitor (Whitehead 2016: 6). Though our exhibition is designed with a clear target audience, the objectives include an appeal to secondary audiences – engagement levels and response cannot be predicted. I am unsure whether this was missed or if it wasn’t relevant. 2. ‘you need to explain in a proposal document how these participatory mechanisms will work. What, for instance, will the first visitors see? What kind of framework will you provide to ensure a quality experience? How do you ensure that the exhibition does not descend into chaos. More info needed.’ After the feedback we talked with the course convenors and attempted to explain our plans more concisely, after which they understood. It seems the proposal wasn’t clear enough, which is something we’ll need to consider for the portfolio. This could be because it was slightly rushed due to illness in the group, it could be because 7 people contributed resulting in a lack of a coherent and singular voice. Upon explanation, however – the concept that seemed to spark understanding was when we explained that the exhibition would be an ongoing submissions based process, an exhibition that is added to incrementally. The collecting and submissions would have to end in January at the end of the assignment. In answer to the question ‘what would the first visitors see’, they would see the personal objects that we have collected already. We were hoping to use these as conversation trigger points, and spring boards for further content. We have a lot to discuss going forward, a lot to clarify, focus and define which is difficult at the moment with other students focusing on other assignments and coming down with illness.
Ministry of communications / Ghana.
  • I had a conversation with a work contact. Her job recently changed so she’s now working for Public Health as part of Manchester City Council in partnership with the NHS in an Inclusion role. Unsurprisingly her department is primarily focused on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in Manchester. She told me about a number of different organisations I could contact to share the project with. But we also discussed the issue of how collaborators will benefit. She asked me if this is a temporary thing or if it would be going down in history – we discussed how the Black community in particular are over consulted, and so unless their stories are being permanently recorded, she wasn’t sure what reason they would have to contribute. I did have an idea to ask Maya if we could contribute any objects we collect on the theme of ethnicity to the AIU, but I think this wouldn’t be appropriate or even possible. Another thing we discussed was her work on engagement with Migrant communities – all the health messaging is in English making it inaccessible to thousands of people in Manchester. Part of her job is to change the language of the health messaging, but also to look to places such as Ghana to borrow culturally identifiable visual aspects of the messaging there to imitate here (such as colour and font as well as language). This will be important to feed back to the group.
  • After this conversation and the feedback, and after hearing what focus other student projects were taking, I have been feeling anxious that our project is overly ambitious and unrealistic for the timescale we’re working in. I met with another student and we had a further discussion with the course convenor. We also needed to take into account the unfortunate amount of illness in our group, this was hampering communication slightly, but we wanted to both support the other group members and simultaneously be proactive. Illness and lack of communication combined with an overly ambitious project idea was creating anxiety for me. We decided to talk to the group leader and offer to co-lead if she felt that was necessary. She appreciated the help so we spent an afternoon reflecting and considering other options and going over feedback. We attempted to be more ruthlessly realistic about what we could achieve, and eventually decided that collaboration should be sidelined and instead only be a small element of the project. It could be something we trial, but as we won’t be relying on this collecting method there is less pressure. Using a collaborative google doc, we came up with pros and cons of existing themes and proposed three new ones too. (See below) We intend to discuss these next week and consult the rest of the group.
Our current theme, including why we think it could be problematic
One of the new theme options.
  • The course convenor advised us to reflect on this decision making in the portfolio. We should state what we wanted to do but decided would be hard to achieve. We should talk about the decision making behind this and recognise challenges. I think this would be really positive, we will be able to demonstrate that we’ve considered the options available to us but have been self aware and realistic.
  • Individual assignment progress – I discussed with Andy my ideas to write my individual assignment about the challenges of collaboration. As mentioned previously, my Introduction to Museum Studies (IMS) assignment was written about co-production – I argued that in order for co-production to be successful it should be permanent, or have some commitment to perpetual, ongoing discourse. This feels like a natural progression for my own development; I can refer to my IMS essay and continue the conversation. I have now experienced the challenges of considering co-production for a short-term project. I’m interested in this idea that the term ‘co-production’ is over used and becoming less meaningful. I also intend to explore the degrees of collaboration involved in contemporary collecting, submissions based projects for example. I believe that some degree of collaboration is inherent in contemporary collecting, but I don’t believe this can be called co-production. Andy has asked me to think about the following: – Why do we need co-production? – Find an example of collaborative contemporary collecting that’s not working. – Find a number of case-studies to work from. I am also interested in the idea of the burden of representation and will be thinking about how this ties in. Lastly, he has given me some advice about how to structure the assignment, which is very helpful. He said in his art history background, the way to approach essay writing was to say what you see, then unpick it. I will try to bear this in mind as I’ve had issues with structuring essays before.

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