The following blog post summarises 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 might a strong collaborative process look like which supports innovative, engaging artistic interpretation of museum artefacts?
Participants at our October event suggested some of the practical steps dance and heritage organisations could take to support this ‘strong collaborative process’:
- Developing a ‘shared language’ – how can dance artists and organisations talk about what they do in ways that will make heritage partners more receptive, and vice versa? As indicated in the previous post, there are already resources offering suggestions on this. If we are able to secure funding, we hope to pull together our own TIMC ‘toolkit’ of resources that might contribute to building a shared understanding of dance/heritage practice, and preparing a new ‘dance/heritage-specialist’ workforce to engage critically in the crucial work of museums and arts organisations in listening to and engaging with their local communities.
You don’t have to dance to take part – your knowledge, appreciation, expertise etc can make a significant contribution. Encouraging museum staff and participants to realise this in order to break down barriers around any preconceptions of what ‘working with dance’ entails.
Assumptions and fears (regarding the safety of collections) means that museums can be risk averse. Simplification leads to better and stronger conversations.
- Mutual respect, attentiveness – work with those who will genuinely commit to investigating new ways of working; work with those who share your aims.
Finding the points where practice can come together.
- Bring in the whole organisation, involving museum volunteers as well – “encouraging them to understand how their knowledge and expertise is vital in starting conversations, researching and any performance outcomes” - as well as “linking to existing and wider networks (different sectors)” and communities.
- Involve the community – make it open, diverse e.g. one participant described a need for “white communities to make more space for the representation of the voices from other cultures and communities. An open conversation about this from both the museum/gallery as well as the dance community”.
TIMC participants thought that museums could play a key role, acting as the “local connector” between the museum, artists and community organisations, which is in keeping with the Museum Association’s recent learning and engagement manifesto, calling for arts and cultural organisations to “commit to being central to the rebuilding of our societies”.
- Using museum space differently and thinking differently about where the museum has to happen/be i.e. taking the museum outside the museum (e.g. Jayne Austin spoke about the Suffolk Steps project revitalising a programme of heritage walks and trails during the first lockdown) and using digital spaces where appropriate
- Investing in developing relationships over time, a slow process – artists are then involved in the process of commissioning new work, and potential impact of work is much greater (as trust is developed, including with other partners including community groups)
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.