In 2019, we (Made By Katie Green) established ‘The Imagination Museum’ website and consortium as a platform for those working in dance and heritage to come together, in person and online, to explore ways of using dance and movement in museums and heritage sites.
Over the past year we have slowly added to our bank of case studies and resources and increased our membership of the consortium to include dancers, choreographers, curators, producers, programmers, researchers, teachers, students and others. This group receive emails with news and opportunities from time to time, or more regular updates via social media, and are invited to our consortium gatherings, which initially took place in person but have more recently been offered online.
- to articulate why we use dance in museums and heritage sites, providing examples of the many ways in which dance can be used to be interpret a site or collection
- to advocate for this work, making a case for the need for/potential impact of working with dance in these contexts
- to advise on and contribute to developing best practice working with dance in museums/heritage contexts
- to build infrastructure to ensure the sustainability of the growing dance/heritage sector
Our online meetings in July 2020 gave us more information about these aims, as I’ll go on to describe in two other blog posts here and here. However, it’s important to acknowledge that, especially at this moment of change, we are still trying to find exactly what the consortium needs to be in order to best respond to the needs of artists/practitioners working in the dance/heritage context.
I'm not sure what the shape of it is going to look like - is it a network, a commissioner, a deliverer for training, advocacy, project lead?”
At present, we’re currently operating the IMC with limited resources and therefore capacity. However, we do have some support through our Arts Council Strategic Touring grant to begin to hear from and work with representatives from the dance and museums sectors to try to work out the answer to this question about the shape of the IMC going forward.
In July 2020 we offered two free opportunities for those interested in working with dance/movement in museums to come together, reflect on their practice in these settings and begin (only if they were ready!) to think about what their next steps might be in moving this practice forward.
At this time, with so many heritage sites facing imminent reopening or more detailed planning for reopening, we found that most of the heritage representatives we contacted were unavailable to attend, so we decided to focus these initial events on those working in the dance sector.
Our events were attended by more than 50 people, so the content arising from our discussions has been rich and wide-ranging. In attempting to summarise a few key points in other blog posts here and here, I do not intend to simplify that range of discussion, and I would welcome any requests for further information about any of the parts of what we spoke about (contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org). I think that, going through everything we captured and participants’ feedback, it becomes very clear that the diversity of people’s interests, needs, desires for the consortium present a key challenge in deciding our future direction. It is hard to create something (particularly with limited resources) that can provide what everyone needs simultaneously. Which therefore points to several other key things:
- it’s likely to take a bit of time to evolve this network and how we offer support;
- the success of what we offer will rely a lot on those who choose to participate being willing to take responsibility in following up leads/researching for themselves and shaping their consortium experience (although there could be opportunities for different levels of engagement by those with less/more experience);
- rather than it being a single person/organisation running the network/platform, we will certainly be seeking to set up a management structure across which the ‘leadership’ of the network can be evenly distributed;
- although Made By Katie Green/I am committed to getting the ball rolling (if it continues to feel appropriate to do so and it’s something people want), I envisage that this is the kind of entity that would need a change of management from time to time, maybe after a period of a few years (which I hope will become apparent), so that the particular focus of the work we might do/kinds of choices we might make would have the opportunity to be continuously refreshed over time.
Our July IMC sessions consisted of:
- Participants sharing artefacts that expressed something about their lockdown experience – it was interesting to see themes in these artefacts, particularly those representing people trying out new ways of making or growing things
- A short ‘lightning talk’ from dance artist Sara Wookey on the ‘Changing Role of the Dance Artist in the Museum’ followed by questions and breakout discussion
- An interactive presentation from our facilitator Emma McFarland on ‘Innovation, Dance and Heritage in an Age of Disruption’ (slides available on request), which used Mentimeter polling to gather reflections from participants about adaptations being made to practice at this time, the impact of lockdown on artist mindset and also on the changing ways in which we were working with our audiences
- A final breakout discussion encouraging participants to begin thinking about moving forwards with their own practice, with the aim of hopefully generating some questions we wanted to ask our heritage partners at our next consortium event (hopefully in October 2020, more details to follow), and helping to determine the focus for the consortium longer term.
Having unexpectedly sold out both of our July events very quickly, it was very encouraging to see the extent of people’s interest in this field of work, and enlivening to hear from participants about how many fantastic dance projects have already been happening in museums, heritage sites and other non-traditional performance spaces like galleries and libraries. You can visit our website here to see our growing bank of case studies and for consortium members we have also put together an 'Orientation Pack' - a working Google Document that provides links helping members to go directly to case studies, can be added to by the group and can also act as an intermediary place for me to add new case studies/resources quickly prior to publishing them on the main website.
For more thoughts on what we discussed during our July IMC events, please read on to our next blog post here.
The Imagination Museum Consortium has been formed as part of the Imagination Museum: Mayflower 400 Strategic Touring project, which is supported financially using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England as part of the Strategic Touring programme, Hampshire Cultural Trust, The Box, West Lindsey, Plymouth, Nottinghamshire, Hampshire County and Bassetlaw District Councils, Pavilion Dance South West, the Surf the Wave programme and The Charter Trustees of East Retford and also delivered in partnership with the Pilgrim Roots Regional Partnership, Transported, The Point, Plymouth Dance and Plymouth Culture.