Forum Connections: Building Capacity for Scotland's Museums Forums
Forum Connections is a 4-year project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), to encourage greater partnership working in Scottish museums through investment in Scotland’s geographic forums. Since 2020, Forum Connections has offered training courses and facilitated support in key areas of need, such as forward planning, fundraising, relationship building, and evaluating projects. The project has also trained key staff and Forum leads. Additional support is offered to Forums on collaborative project development, funding applications, and audience development initiatives.
Undertaking more work in partnership is an important way for museums to develop more sustainable working practices. The aim of this project supports our National Strategy strand Resilience and the priority area Collaboration. We are committed to delivering the Forum Connections project to support and establish geographic forums to share practice, resource and impact, maximising opportunities for training, audience development, funding and advice.
A dedicated Forums Fund was created to support museums to participate in the project. This supports museums to undertake the preparatory work required to ensure sustainability and effective partnership working.
For more information, please contact our Forums Facilitator, Neil Ogilvy, at NeilO@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk
The project reached the one year milestone in July 2021. In this blog, Forum Facilitator, Neil Ogilvy, reflects on the achievements of the programme that continued to provide skills, networking opportunities, and events despite the challenges faced during the COVID19 pandemic.
Forum Connections Update January 2023
As we move in to 2023, it’s a good time to reflect on all that has been happening in the Forum Connections project over the last year. We’ve worked with seven forums on their forward plans, delivered training for forum leads, and organised a series of inter-forum meetings to allow and facilitate the sharing of information.
Additionally, as we moved away from the strict lockdowns over the last few years, we also needed to ensure that various aspects of the project were still relevant to the needs of the forums and their membership.
As well as being spaces where partnership working can develop, forums have shown that they can be excellent spaces to find solutions that museums are facing as a collective, where collaboration and sharing of ideas is especially crucial. The climate emergency is one of these areas and in July 2022 we organised Climate Literacy training delivered by Keep Scotland Beautiful to forum members. This training was designed to explore the various aspects of the climate emergency and how they relate to museums. With representatives from seven geographic forums taking part and plans for a specific climate network, this knowledge can be shared around the sector.
In November, the project took part in the Museums Association conference and hosted a panel discussion on how geographic forums responded to the wellbeing and mental health needs of their membership during the pandemic and how this can be continued. Bruce Mann from the North East Scotland Heritage Network, Nicola Moss from the Lothians Museums Forum and Dan Cottam from Museums and Heritage Highlands spoke excellently about the wide range of initiatives that their forums did to support their members during this difficult period and what is needed to continue this work going forward.
Alongside these events, we have been working with forums to develop their plans by providing advice and hosting facilitated sessions. Many of these have revolved around the Why, How, What model that helps explore the key elements of effective group working. These also form the backbone of a forward plan. Both Tayside Museums Forum and Lanarkshire Heritage Forum have recently finalised new forward plans while Fife Museums Forum and Dumfries and Galloway Museums and Heritage Network are starting out on this process.
Two forums have also received grants through the Forums Fund to undertake work that will help improve their sustainability and progress their forward plans. Museums and Heritage Highlands is organising a series of events and residential weekends designed to help their members share expertise between their museums and develop a stronger network. Through these they will also be able to trial various means of income that will support their work going forward. The Argyll and Bute Museums and Heritage Forum are organising a one-day conference in February 2023 that is the starting point of them exploring and documenting the heritage in the region. This will help them to scope out a heritage audit to fully understand what the region has to offer so that the forum can better represent the area. Find out more here.
Going in to 2023 we have training coming up in February on funding – how to make a case and where to look for it – as well as audience development training later in the year. We’ll also continue to work with forums as they develop their plans and we’re excited to see some excellent ideas for funding already we are excited to help develop and see come to fruition.
Geographically-based museum and heritage forums offer voluntary peer-support for museums of all sizes, providing opportunities to share news, discuss matters of mutual interest, and offer a platform for collaboration.
Geographic Museum Forums: Organising Tayside's Treasures with 16 Museums
In this blog, Matthew Jarron, Curator for Museum Services at the University of Dundee and secretary of Tayside Museums Forum, talks through the process of organising Tayside’s Treasures, where 16 museums came together for a successful online event showcasing a diverse range of objects found in Tayside’s museums.