This year’s Museum Association Conference took place in the spectacular Cardiff Millennium Centre and was a whirlwind of talks, workshops, performance, lively discussion and hands on activity that would be impossible to summarise here. Instead I’m going to share with you a few key moments that really resonated with me.
The theme was Museums Change Lives, a topic close to my heart as it’s a statement I really believe in and the reason I’m pursuing a career in this sector so doggedly: I want to work within a world that makes a positive difference.
When you hear the word ‘conference’, it probably conjures up images of sombre, suited delegates in serious discussion, but the MA offered something quite different. The passion of everyone for their sector shone throughout the event and the unique local character was embodied by a rousing poem written and performed at conference especially for us by the young person’s laureate for Wales, Martin Daws.
Mat Fraser- actor, activist and interesting human- gave a fantastic bespoke performance on the representations of disability in museums, complete with dancing and show tunes.
Discover more about his boundary-destroying, status quo-challenging work here: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg/projects/cabinet-of-curiosities
Much more sedate, but equally inspiring, was a fascinating discussion of the museum as an imaginary space, which asked us all to reflect on what being a museum means to us. We were invited to virtually explore the wonderful Marco Polo Museum, which manages to be a museum without actually existing.
The age-old idea of Cabinets of Curiosity was revisited in a lively debate where delegates were asked to consider which objects we would include in a modern curiosity cabinet to represent museums today. Popular suggestions included a stuffed curator and an empty case to represent everything that museums can’t or don’t display.
The true power of a museum to make a difference was exemplified in a tearful plea from Antonio Vieira, director of the Museu da Mare, to save the museum that has bought together the warring populations of the slums through exhibiting their shared history. Despite their great work, they are threatened with closure as their building is shortly to be taken from them.
By turns challenging, informative and emotional, this year’s Museum Association Conference was an experience that will stay with me. Thank you, Cardiff!
Heritage Data Management Trainee