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Bringing in the Community: Community-Led Exhibitions

The Scottish Maritime Museum would like to bring the community into the museum and wants to give, those interested, ownership of the creation of community-led exhibitions.

Public engagement is at the heart of what museums do. They provide opportunities to explore our heritage and to delve into our understanding of the world around us. Engaging with the local communities who live, work, and play in the same areas that a museum serves, is sometimes harder to achieve. There can often be the perception that museums serve specific demographics or that they are there to tell you certain stories, but not actually involve you in their creation. However, many museums now are providing more opportunities for communities to get involved and even lead the creation of exhibitions and supporting activities within museums.

This is something that the Scottish Maritime Museum is keen to explore both for Irvine and the Denny Ship Model Experimental Tank in Dumbarton. These co-produced exhibitions will be the result of understanding what the community wants to learn and explore in Scotland’s vast and varied Maritime past, present and future. Maybe it is exploring the art collection, and creating something new on a similar theme? Maybe its retelling social stories about time in the shipyards or at sea? Maybe it is revisiting a heritage craft and exploring its relevance in today’s world? Or something else?

Community ideas: sharing interests and stories in creative ways.

To begin understanding what the community wants, I have recently taken up post as the Museum’s Community Engagement and Development Officer. I’m keen to build relationships with community organisations and individuals who might be keen to hear more about the community engagement work we are doing. We are especially looking to provide opportunities for groups of people who maybe don’t feel as involved in their local community. With this in mind, we are keen to encourage groups and individuals who are part of the ‘New Scot’s’ community and those who are living with mental health problems or are experiencing social isolation to get in touch. In the spring we are hosting, what we’ve call Community Ideas sessions. These Community Ideas sessions or focus groups are a chance to get to know the Museum and have your say in the creation of new exhibitions and activities within the Museum.

Members of Harbour Ayrshire Men’s Only Time joining in with a Community Ideas Session

We’ve already started our engagement with interested groups and are keen to explore relationships with any other community groups or individuals who would like to take part. You don’t need to know anything about maritime history to come along, just having an open mind and some curiosity about what opportunities the Museum could have for you is enough. If you think you or your community group would like to come along to one of these sessions, please get in touch via email at Jennifer@scotmaritime.org.uk 

Enjoying spending time exploring the Museum collection.

I am also planning a more general Community Ideas Day (more details to follow) to give the public a chance to share their thoughts on what a Community-Led exhibition might look like and take part in some “My dream Museum” activities. In the meantime, if you have any exhibition ideas that you would like to share, we now have a Community Ideas blackboard in the Linthouse building in Irvine, that you are free to add your thoughts to. We’d love to know what you’d like to see in the Museum!

For these Community-Led exhibitions to be successful the community needs to take ownership of both the theme and the creation of materials, so they can celebrate their achievements and take pride in being part of the Museum’s story. If you would like more information about joining a Community Ideas session or about the project in general you can reach me at Jennifer@scotmaritime.org.uk I would be happy to have a chat about the project and how you can help become part of the Scottish Maritime Museum’s community story.

This project is part-funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Museums Galleries Scotland Museum Development Fund.

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