Engaging Curators: the ethics and practicalities of working with and responding to communities

Engaging Curators, a project funded by the Arts Council, sort to promote personal and institutional reflection upon the abstract and actual nature of collaborative practice, particularly in regard to curatorial involvement with community work.

During two challenging workshops held in 2013, we aimed to think through and document how ethnographic collections are used in community engagement, and the role of curators within that.

The outcomes of these workshops will soon be available in the resources section of this website. These will include a set of case studies, a literature review and some further reading and a review of recent practice. We hope that they will foster open discussions and reflection on practice and projects. We hope, too, that these documents will provide information and advice for new projects that our membership undertakein the future: please do let us know if they do so. 


Engaging Communities: workshops, case studies and guidance

MEG committee was awarded funding by Arts Council England (ACE) for two workshops on engaging communities. This was a direct result of debates and discussions that emerged from papers presented at the most recent MEG conference.

In recent years although museum ethnographers have developed new practices in response to the needs of stakeholder communities, both in the UK and abroad, this knowledge is often held with institutions and individuals and the experience is not widely disseminated. At the conference members and delegates expressed a need for guidance and support in engaging with and responding to communities and the opportunity to learn from the experience of others and as a result MEG has been funded to convene two targeted workshops with invited speakers to discuss current issues around community engagement, as well as initiate face-to-face contact between non-specialists, experts and MEG.

Dr Bernadette Lynch

Project Co-ordinator Engaging Curators project

The Engaging Curators project was coordinated by Dr Bernadette Lynch, well known writer, researcher and adviser to museums. Dr Lynch is an academic and museum professional with twenty-five years’ experience in senior management in UK and Canadian museums, with extensive experience in working with First Nations and Diaspora communities in museums. Formerly Deputy Director of the Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester, where she led a team delivering innovative work on the collaborative interpretation of collections (Collective Conversations) she is now a freelance museum writer/researcher and consultant working across the UK and internationally. She publishes widely on innovative and interdisciplinary cultural theory and practice, with a particular interest in theories of power, agency, citizenship and participation. She is interested in the ethics of democratic dialogue and debate in museums as civil society institutions.

In 2011 she completed a UK-wide study and published an influential report on behalf of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, entitled Whose Cake is it Anyway? on the impact of engagement and participation on twelve publicly-funded museums and galleries across the UK . She has just completed two large scale projects, one with the Tate Gallery in London, leading a reflective practice action research project for the Plus Tate network across twenty partner galleries in the UK that focuses on youth participation, dialogue and activism; and the other with a consortium of north-eastern museums on the social impact of the Stories of the World (as part of the museum sector’s response to the 2012 Cultural Olympiad). She has also recently coordinated and edited a special volume of the international peer-reviewed journal, Museum Management and Curatorship on the subject of working through conflict in museums, (published in March 2013). She is an Honorary Research Associate at University College London (UCL) and Co-Director of Change Management Associates. She can be contacted at lynchbernadette@hotmail.com