Managing Collections – Week 7

One of our group has drafted a standardised ‘permissions email’ for us to send out that was approved by the course leader. I will need to ask ROOT-ed Zine for permission to use their issue on work, saftey4sisters to ask permission to show the cover art from the report on COVID and Poor Lass Podcast to ask if we can include their episode on COVID and unions. One of the tasks I need to do over the next few days is to re-listen to the podcast episode and select the most important extracts in an attempt to narrow it down to a 2 minute clip. When doing this I will bear in mind objects that others in the group have listed, to ensure that there is a consistent thread or connection between everything. We will need to set up an email address to send the request from. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for permission from my personal account, to me it wouldn’t seem professional. This is good practice for the future.

This week I had another session with 2 members of the group to make further progress building the exhibition on Artsteps. The students who are focusing on design suggested we eradicate any signs of the minimalist white cube gallery space, so our walls will be the familiar Manchester red brick. We found an image online of the iconic brick to use to coat the exhibition walls. As a group we have also made progress with the layout. We will be using the ovals of the two fields in the centre – Artsteps doesn’t provide the option to build curved walls or to create different flooring unless it’s in an enclosed room. Therefore the student building the exhibition has decided to recreate the shape of the ovals using hexagonal shaped rooms instead. We will try our best to keep the space as open as possible. Another suggestion of the design team was to make plinths textured too. One of the screenshots above show the plinths we have installed initially. I also started to experiment with ivy, plants and foliage to soften the appearance of the stand alone walls or blend them into the surroundings a bit more and to add more park like characteristics. Another idea we are trying in order to mimic the wayfinding of Alexandra Park is including more photos. As you walk into the main entrance of the park on the left is the Chorlton Lodge, on the right are some steps leading up to the Victorian Terrace. We have uploaded my photos of the park to recreate this. I hope the virtual visitors will pick up on what we are trying to do. Again, we need to make sure we don’t restrict the space too much or suggest wayfinding too directly.

I have found this weeks seminar preparation really interesting and incredibly useful for my Individual Assignment but also in relation to my job at CFCCA. We are looking at Audiences and Visitors. I was particularly looking forward to this weeks topic as I have begun to gain some experience and knowledge of Audience Development at work. In particular, I’m interested in learning about the theory behind how museums engage audiences, how they understand audience behaviour, developing new audiences, addressing barriers and the different methods of data collection. One of the readings that I found particularly insightful is The role of ambiances and aesthetics on millennials’ museum visiting behavior (2018). The essay discusses the S-O-R model (Stimulus-Organism-Response):

The present study uses the Stimulus–Organism–Response (S–O–R) model (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974) as our theoretical background, in order to confirm the relationship among variables of stimuli, organism and response

Hyun, H., Park, J., Ren, T., & Kim, H. (2018)

They discuss the motivations of Korean millennials to visit art museums, the importance of ambiance and aesthetics in creating satisfactory visits and loyalty (loyalty can be signified via repeat visits, purchases and recommendations). They also discuss the difference between hedonistic visitors and utilitarian visitors – one is based around emotion, consumption and sensation, the other is around practical goals and learning. I look forward to discussing this during the seminar and applying it when I am next able to interact with visitors at work.

We also had to watch a number of short lectures for this week, some of which described a nation wide shift towards collaboration with audiences and community members. There are a number of reports / literature that I plan to read to potentially include in my assignment. Namely, the Creative Europe paper (2017) and The Culture White Paper (2016) and more recently OF BY FOR ALL:

The OF/BY/FOR ALL approach starts with a simple equation: OF + BY = FOR. We believe that the most powerful way to become relevant FOR diverse communities is to become representative OF them and co-created BY them. Rather than guessing what an unfamiliar community might want or need, we encourage you to get to know that community. To spend time in that community. To listen and learn from them.

To me this evidences a noticeable shift towards collaboration with audiences, but in particular in response to Black Lives Matter and COVID-19. The OF BY FOR ALL team offer an anti-racist framework for organisations to follow. It includes advice such as: “Now is a moment for organizations to act – even if you may not feel completely prepared to do so. […] Sometimes, organizations choose not to act because it feels too overwhelming to stop everything and develop a response. But silence can be deafening. These crises impact our communities and our staff. They deserve attention and action. […] It might take time to figure out the longer-term goals your organization wants to contribute to, but that should not stop you from taking immediate action right now.They suggest specific ways to begin undertaking this work. This contextualises something I’ve been considering over the past few weeks: Organisations are quick to label the collaborative work they’re doing as co-production, when in fact it is not genuine co-production. They either lack the time, resources or community trust to do so, or haven’t found a way to challenge and rethink their own authority and structural inequalities. The work they are doing can be more accurately described as collaboration – this phenomenon can no longer be attributed to museums with colonial collections and source communities alone, but art galleries without collections, cultural organisations of all sizes and purposes are undertaking this work. I have started to question whether this collaboration is more of a revolution in terms of audience engagement? A much more pared back practice than genuine co-production which, when done properly, should reimagine the very foundations of an institution. This makes sense as organisations attempt to respond to the calls for radical change, equity, inclusion and representation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death and during the pandemic. They attempt to act and feel pressured to do so quickly, which is why there may not be time to commit to full co-production. I need to discuss these ideas further with one of the course convenors.

The other significant development for our group project is that we decided to use a dialogic style of interpretation for the exhibition. This was based on last weeks lecture. Dialogic interpretation engages visitors, asks questions, uses personal address (‘take a closer look’) and personal pronouns (you, we), admits it does not know all the answers, uses short sentences and uses familiar rather than technical terms (The University of Manchester, 2020). We felt this would be the most appropriate language to use in order to make our intended audience feel more comfortable, and more familiar in the hope that they see themselves reflected in the content and are not excluded.

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