What is Museum Development?

Museum Development (MD) is a programme of developmental support targeted at Accredited museums, art galleries and historic houses across the United Kingdom.

The primary funder of Museum Development in England is Arts Council England (£12.4 Million in 2018-22). The programme in England is delivered in the nine regions by a Museum Development provider. In the devolved nations, museum development is delivered by Welsh Government (Museums, Libraries and Archives Division), Museums Galleries Scotland and Northern Ireland Museums Council.

Each programme has some national strands and some regional variation, responding to the needs of local museums. Broadly speaking, museum development support includes advice, guidance, training and the administration of small grants. The aim of these interventions is to help museums to strengthen their governance, collections management, learning and engagement activities, workforce and commercial operations to increase their relevance to the communities they serve.

What is the Museum Development Network (MDN)?

MDN is a network of people working in museum development roles across the United Kingdom.

MDN is an advocate for the impact our programmes and activities have on the museum sector at a national level and of the needs to museums. MDN also provides the practitioners working in museum development teams with a forum for discussion, debate, sharing information and collaboration. As a network we:

  • champion and demonstrate the unique value of museums and the role they contribute to communities, audiences and the wider public.
  • help museums to become resilient.
  • facilitate collaborative working and shared best practice.
  • support excellence, innovation, partnerships and organisational sustainability across the sector.
  • advocate for the sector and provide a source of national benchmarking.
  • enable museums to build their capacity to meet the diverse needs of the communities they serve.
  • collaborate to maximise investment from our funders.

MDN members in England also work collaboratively to maximise the investment from Arts Council England and other key funders. This includes the adoption of a shared:

  • evaluation framework
  • approach to business sustainability
  • approach to leadership development
  • and key performance indicators to demonstrate consistent national impact data.

What does the Network do?

MDN was established to ensure that that museum development practitioners are not isolated in their roles and are able to share practice and feel part of a national change programme.

The Network brings together Museum Development providers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and allows for a shared understanding of the national picture.

This is made possible through sector data collection, which not only provides key statistics on the operational context of the Accreditation Scheme, but also offers a clear demonstration of the collective social and economic value of museums in key areas such as volunteering and visitor spend in the local economy.

This sector information enables MDN to promote and influence policy and funders to ensure the whole of the museum sector is represented when key issues are discussed at a local, regional or national level.

Due to the nature of our work, museum development teams have a practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by museums. MDN seeks to support the sector in demonstrating the unique value and contribution of museums of all shapes and sizes to their communities, their audiences and the wider public.

MDN works closely with national and regional bodies in order to assist the effective promotion, targeting and development of the services they are seeking to deliver.

How is the MDN managed?

The Museum Development Network is managed by a committee is made up of senior managers from each nation and regional programme. The committee meets each quarter to:

  • Plan alignment of regional activity to national objectives
  • Collaborate on new programme ideas
  • Coordinate national projects and programmes
  • Sharing good practice and emerging ideas

The network contracts a Coordinator to act as a central point of contact for museum development teams, funders, partners and stakeholders.

How does MDN support museum development teams?

Museum Development Network (MDN) represents the workforce that delivers developmental support to museums across the United Kingdom. This workforce includes Museum Development Officers (MDOs), freelance contractors and other practitioners who deliver specific services to museums such as conservation and collection care, audience development, workforce development, volunteering and digital engagement and Accreditation advice.

Each museum development team has a different structure to respond to the priority needs of the museums they serve.

MDN delivers training and an annual conference, which is supported by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), hosted the day before the national AIM conference in June. The Network also coordinates national communications to share news and information that is relevant to MDOs.