Stepping outside to engage non-visitors
by Daniel Martin, Head of Curatorship and Curator of Making, Derby Museums
In Derby, we have different communities of first and second generation immigrants. As part of the GIFT Action Research, we wanted to meet these communities and try to see how they might engage with the museum. We did get a number of new engagements but ultimately there were fundamental issues with the experiment.
What did you want to find out?
Whether there was an appetite within first or second generation immigrant communities to engage with the museum. Also, we wanted to prototype how to best facilitate contributions from these people into the museum narrative.
What did you do?
We used an existing project (The Derby Story) and the Museum of Making interpretation plan to:
- host a conversation café at the Museum.
- go into parts of the city where these people live with response cards and to engage in conversation. Each with the question: “What does it mean to live and work in Derby?”
Was it successful?
Somewhat. We were able to build successfully on existing relationships that had been formed through our recent ‘World Cultures’ gallery. We did get a number of new engagements but ultimately there were fundamental issues with the experiment. Firstly, the Derby Story project lost political will and so the project ceased to be a priority for the organisation. Secondly, we’d termed and grouped the individuals as ’emerging communities’ which had the effect of creating informal communities where they do not exist in real life.
What did you learn?
We learned that:
- creating communities serves museum KPIs but doesn’t represent impact or reality on the ground.
- it is better to allow access at an individual level rather than group level when levelling access to digital.
- the museum has a very limited presence despite repeated efforts to reach outside of our walls.
What surprised you?
To a degree, the lack of take-up overall.
What methods or tools did you use?
Derby Museums’ Human Centred Design Handbook.