The Visitor Studies Group: Championing excellent visitor experiences

Skill-Sharing Event, Scotland, May 2013

The Visitor Studies Group and GEM Scotland collaborated to host an event at the National Museum of Scotland on Monday 20th May 2013. The event entitled “Consulting with Young People: The Challenges and The Rewards” brought together a range of speakers to share their experiences of engaging with young people from primary school age upwards.

The first interactive session of the day was facilitated by Christine McLean (National Museums Scotland) and Owen Cook (Space Unlimited) who shared with us the non-directive approach they took to engaging with young people to inform the Museum’s work. Within the break-out groups we explored and debated what consultation with young people meant for our organisations and what challenges consulting with young people present us with.

Once we had re-grouped, David Jones (from The Consultation Institute) identified for us the key points to consider when planning, undertaking and evaluating consultations. His “Consultation Mandate” is an excellent tool to remind all of us when commencing consultation what the aims and objectives of the study are and what we aim to achieve.

After lunch, our second interactive session of the day was led by Sam Groves (Glasgow Life) – on the day the Riverside Museum had been announced as European Museum of the Year. Drawing on her work at the Riverside Museum, Sam told us about the schools and teenager panels recruited and consulted with to inform the development of interpretation and displays at the Museum.

Next up was Loretta Mordi (Museums Galleries Scotland) who provided us with an overview of the collaborative work between MGS and museums as part of the Youth Access and Inclusion in Museums and Galleries Project. Six museums were case studied during Loretta’s presentation including Aberdeenshire Council Museums, The McManus in Dundee, East Lothian Museums Council, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Museum of University of St Andrews at Scottish Borders Council.

GEM Scotland Convenor Sarah Cowie (East Lothian Council Museums Service) and Helen Bleck (The John Gray Centre) took us to our last interactive session of the day and shared with us how they had engaged with young people prior to, and since opening, to develop the John Gray Centre and its activities with them in mind. We particularly enjoyed their revisiting collections break-out session where delegates, in pairs, selected an object and then identified what they wanted to know about that object!

Finally, all speakers took part in a panel providing delegates with the opportunity to ask questions and share their own experiences.

All in all, a great interactive, positive and interesting event which we hope encouraged delegates to consult with young people, despite some of the challenges, to reap the rewards. We all agreed how important it is to share experiences in order that we can learn from good practice and events such as this go a long way to providing a forum for sharing.

Sheena Muncie, Visitor Studies Group Co-Chair


Updated Agenda for VSG and GEM event 200513
Christine McLean, NMS
Owen Cook, Space Unlimited
David Jones, The Consultation Institute
Sam Groves, Glasgow Life
Loretta Mordi, MGS
Sarah Cowie & Helen Bleck, East Lothian Council, John Gray Centre

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