Young dancers performing in The Imagination Museum: Mayflower 400 in Retford in November 2019

What are the challenges faced by dancers and museums in trying to work collaboratively?

Consortium News

The following two blog posts summarise discussion from our Imagination Museum Consortium (TIMC) event in October 2020. See this blog post for an introduction to the context of that event and some concluding points. 

What are the challenges faced by dancers and museums in trying to work collaboratively?

For museums:

  • Capacity – museum representatives described having to either fundraise to be able to bring in the additional project-management support needed to facilitate a collaborative project or outsourcing to other freelance art organisations.
  • Time, and the need to plan ahead – those working in museums can be up against significant workloads, so projects need to be discussed early on, so they can be built into the schedule/activity plan in advance. "It’s hard to accommodate last minute requests to come and ‘use our space’ or work with the museum".
  • Space – some museums only have small spaces, or conservation issues associated with displays make it difficult to work in particular areas.
  • The mindset of the organisation, or parts of it, and needing to bring along the whole organisation, e.g. including the team of volunteers at a smaller community-run museum, or the multiple departments of a larger organisation.

    Working with dance isn’t necessarily something people [in museums] don’t want to do, it may just be that they haven’t thought of it before.

    Jayne Austin

    Association of Suffolk Museums

    "Being able to touch and allowing visitors to play is important to visitor experience."
    • Conservation issues – how difficult it can be to enable access or facilitate a handling session for example - “When you’re allowed to touch heritage artefacts and objects, the experience is emphasised and ‘hits home’ of history feeling ‘real’”

      Can scepticism in [some] museums be evaded by sharing common interests and language?

      IMC participant

      • Tradition  - “Museums hold the weight of the ‘traditional way of looking at art/heritage" - how can this be shifted through dance/movement interventions and how does this change how we see the collection?”
      • As well as multiple agendas/perspectives being at work in the museum environment - “Many layers of opinion and hierarchy involved with how the museums is represented to the public and how exhibitions are prioritised. Many different agendas”

      We outlined some of the challenges for dancers/dance organisations working with heritage organisations in a previous post, but our consortium participants in October spoke again about the challenges of:

      • “finding the right person to talk to” within a heritage organisation
      • being able to respond fully to a site, collection, artefact, idea, event without full information and greater access to staff expertise - “the more information museums can share, the better and more evolved a dance work can be”
      • longer timelines and slower processes bringing project-management challenges e.g. having to adapt constantly to changes of personnel in heritage organisations and difficulties with freelance artists committing to projects (which aren’t full time) over longer periods of time. However, if managed well, long term relationships are essential for genuinely moving forward ways of thinking about uses for dance in museums.

      Visit the next post in this series to read more about questions asked at our Imagination Museum Consortium event in October 2020.

      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, The Charter Trustees of East Retford and a space arts/God's House Tower and also delivered in partnership with the Pilgrim Roots Regional Partnership, Transported, The Point and Plymouth Dance.