An Architect’s Dream

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During the second term as part of my MA IN Innovation and Leadership in Museum Practice I will be working on a live project for twelve weeks in one of the nine museums sites that exist across Birmingham. I am working with the conservation team on the fine art collection at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

So far, working on the project I have found to be challenging but enjoyable. I have been looking at the fine art collection of Birmingham Museums Trust, as well meeting staff at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. One of the project’s challenges is to match the description in the database to the object in the store, as well remembering the basic maths of the measuring units.

Part of the project involves learning about the technologies that Birmingham Museums Trust uses to monitor the environment and the measurements of lux (light). We will also be updating the information on the collection by measuring the frames. My activities also involve making a note of any damaged frames, measuring objects and adding labels next to objects. At end of this process we will be working out the percentage of how much space that the collection is currently occupying. I will produce an evaluation report which includes proposals to improve long-term storage facilities for the collection Working on the live projects gives us the opportunity to work alongside the staff at the museums whist developing new skills for our future careers.

21st Century Life



It is best to move with the times then getting left behind, then sometimes when life feels so comfortable it seems that everything is handed over, like a silver platter. When something unexpected happens, it can be a shock to the system. There are different behaviour responses when a sudden change occurs; we can be fearful or learn to adapt and could to better opportunities or change earlier and appreciate the changes.

Before the practical session, we all to read a book called, ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ By Spencer Johnson. The book is about four characters; Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw; and how they response to sudden of change when the ‘Cheese’ is moved or gone. The reading reflections on the changes of a business, an individual or a group of people. On a side note, I would recommend reading this book it is very interesting and when reading the text there are different viewpoints that can be reflected about yourself or different organisations.

In the practical session, we learned about the organisational and cultural change of Birmingham Museum Trust; when it was formed and the changes when two different organisations merged, this including a redesign of the organisational culture and the different responses of the changes that happen after the merged. In a reference to the reading. Also during the session, we looked at the vision of Birmingham Museums Trust and the five strategic aims, how they incorporate with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s collection, displays and to engage with the public; including to come up different plans for possible scenarios that could affect the museums future.

In the last past years, there has be a big shift of how the museums and galleries how they are running them, that can be the changes of culture or politics. Sometimes the changes of an organisation for example a merging two different museums, could happen and it could turnout for the best.



Lookin’ Through the Windows

A BBC Inside Out piece which aired last night featured the School of Art and the Archives. The package was about stained glass window artist Margaret Rope who studied with us at the turn of the 20th Century. The piece focuses on her life as a whole and includes filming at the School of Art as well as in the Archives, and has some really nice shots of our buildings.

The whole package starts around 18:10 into this and ends at around 28:18, and the School of Art/BCU specific segments run from around 20:30 until 23:01.

PARKLIFE All the people… So many people…

One of the most brilliant and effective aspects of Thinktank is the Science Garden. It was the only one of its kind in the UK at time of planning, providing a place for children to get hands on with their learning. It not only represents one more fantastic interactive space for visitors of the museum, but it also functions as a community space. It is immensely popular and attracted 16,000 additional visitors to the museum in the first year of its opening – a real success story!
It is set within the city’s Eastside Park, and has really become an integral part of the landscape. The museum lets the public in to use this space for free after 3pm– another way in which it is endeavouring to be as accessible as possible to local people, and audiences who wouldn’t necessarily usually be able to visit the museum. We were told that this garden can have up to 200 people enjoying the space on a really busy day! This is just one of the many ways in which Thinktank tries to care for and give back to the local community. I thought it was a really great example of the application of the principles of public engagement and public benefit, as set out in the MA’s Code of Ethics. In reaching out to new and diverse audiences, it also fits seamlessly within the mission set out by the Birmingham Museums Trust.
Other schemes the museum has started to this end includes their yearly open days, which give local residents a voucher to enter the museum and 50% off a yearly family pass. They also operate an extensive schools outreach programme.

The Times They Are A’Changin’ Friday 23rd September- Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is a perfectly preserved time capsule providing a snapshot of working life in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and of it’s metal working heritage. Birmingham City Council acquired the site after the company, Smith and Pepper, ceased trading in 1981. When Smith and Pepper closed its doors, they simply down tooled and locked the doors, unaware they would be leaving a time capsule for future generations. The main focus of this museum is the guided tours, which they won the award for Best Told Story in the 2015 VAQAs assessment. Guided tours work best for a museum of this nature as they are able to tell a story in a much more narrative way as opposed to being behind glass panels with text. Also on a practical level, it helps to control visitor safety. It is too dangerous to have visitors wondering around free flow as there is dangerous machinery and lots of pieces on display within reaching distance that can’t be touched for conservation reasons. The anecdotal stories from the tour guides make each tour individual, conversational, informal and interactive. One of the team’s volunteer tour guides used to work in the office and was able to pass on personal recollections. The photograph shows a workbench in the factory- you can see how quite literally the workers down tooled with tools and scraps of metal left on the bench. The tour guide shared an anecdotal story about the shelf in the middle of the workbench which was installed by the workers because the two workers opposite fell out and didn’t want to see each other. Small stories like this made the tour much more personal and engaging.Gemma.

Behind Closed Doors Thursday 22nd September 2016- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is the largest of the 9 sites across the Birmingham Museums Trust. Because of this, the site acts as a base or ‘hub’ for the teams. Pictured is the conservation room at BMAG. The conservation team are not only responsible for the BMAG site but other sites across the trust, therefore they are required to work offsite too. The conservation team care for the museums extensive collection. They also control pest management who pose risk to the collections, as well as restore objects, care for gallery displays, work with humidifiers and monitoring. The team are also able to work on a consultancy basis and can be hired out- offering a sustainable service for the trust. Gemma.

The A Team

katherinebmt-corridorBirmingham Museum and Art Gallery, a historic listed building that has been open since 1885, this huge beautiful building has a vast collection that the public can see every day. However, behind the scenes there is a team of staff and volunteers that work in and around the museum to keep it going, for the public to enjoy the art and history that comes with it.

Part of my course was to take a tour of museum and what I seen was not just the galleries spaces, as well the maze of corridors that contain the offers of the staff members. They work to keep the museum running together has a team, form planning displays to paying the electric bill. Katherine.

Do It Your Way

Simon Bolton, Associate Dean for Applied Enterprise and Research at BCU, speaks about the the inspiration behind the MA Innovation and Leadership in Museum Practice course and the need for this type of programme.

Simon will be teaching and mentoring students doing the MA. In this video he talks about how innovation and leadership feature in the course.

Find out more about Simon Bolton on the BCU website.

Big Magic

Here at the School of Art we have the great privilege of working with some fantastic partners in the city. Here are just a few examples of what we have been up to recently:

Selfridges Live + Loud was an exciting festival held from 1st – 4th October 2015. The event celebrated the very best of Birmingham. As part of this event, Birmingham School of Art presented an exciting programme of performances, installations and research projects for the city, centred on a pop-up ‘creative podium’, which was designed as a multi-purpose work and learning space by Art and Design students who study in the School of Art. The podium was curated by myself and colleagues and aimed to display and celebrate the richness, diversity, and quality of the various activities of the School of Art, both internal and with their external partner organisations.

Live and Loud

Read more about the activities and what some of the participants had to say about it in the Live + Loud Evaluation (pdf).

And we even brought King Kong back to Birmingham in an offsite installation developed by The Gorilla Collective.

King Kong is Back
Prior to that Selfridges approached us at the School to launch the Imagnarium as part of their national project on the role of imagination in society across London and Manchester. We launched “The Imaginarium” as part of Selfridges “The Festival of Imagination” on the 4th February in Birmingham.

The Imaginarium was a FREE magical, playful space that celebrated curiosity and accomplishment. The projects aim was to draw on regional talent to showcase the imagination across science, art, culture, technology, design and commercial enterprise.
Over 3 weeks, The Imaginarium, hosted interactive workshops, talks, performances, music, demonstration’s screenings, and events for both children and adults. It was a unique creative hub where imaginative workshops and inspiring talks by renowned designers, artists and academics communicated to audiences their imaginative projects, processes and products. Audiences encountered their imaginative processes, from a very personal perspective, as well as accessing the wealth of knowledge and inspiration that guides, ignites and inspires the FOI participant’s thoughts and actions. The Festival explored the power of imagination to drive the process of innovation and inform the shape of our future.

Our students were also involved with the Longbridge Light Festival which is s part of a larger project by WERK designed to support the regeneration of the Longbridge area of Birmingham. Students were also involved in Tran-si-tion, a one-day International Conference which took place on the 24th October 2014. Tran-si-tion provided a platform for some of the leading UK and International keynote speakers to highlight best practice within regeneration schemes, urban design, strategic planning, technology innovation, placemaking and art within a social urban context.”

Longbridge Light Festival
We also worked with students at the Conservatoire to create an interactive installation (Beth Derbyshire and Andy Ingamelis) and exhibition entitled SCORE: TRACE THAT SOUND which was the UK’s largest ever exhibition of graphic musical notation, co curated by myself and Jo Scarf. It was housed in the spotlight exhibition area of the Library of Birmingham and included work by 35 different artists from around the world, ranging from Ancient Egyptian Colour Music to seminal works by John Cage and lecturers and students from Birmingham Conservatoire. SCORE was presented as the center piece of Frontiers Festival held in Birmingham 22 March-5 April & 2-8 June 2014.

Frontiers Festival