In this issue:
Hello from the MDN committee
National updates from Arts Council England and Northern Ireland Museums Council
Accreditation news
Sector Support Organisations update
MDN subgroups: Business Diagnostics and Training
Regional news: NW
AOB notifications
MDO Spotlight: Ian Bapty

Hello from the MDN Committee

by Claire Browne, Museum Development Manager in the East Midlands and MDN Chair

Welcome to the first issue of the Museum Development Network (MDN) newsletter.

This is a newsletter for all MD staff working across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There will be a newsletter issued every 2 months to improve communications across all MD teams and strengthen the Network as a whole.

The content is pulled together by our new Network Coordinator from museum leads at Arts Council England, Welsh Government Museums, Libraries and Archives Division, Museums Galleries Scotland and Northern Ireland Museums Council via the MDN Committee.

The MDN Committee is comprised of the senior managers from the Museum Development programmes across the 9 English regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The committee meets about 4 times per year to discuss a range of strategic topics and collaborate on joint initiatives such as evaluation, business planning and funding opportunities.

The newsletter should provide MDOs across the country with regular updates of what is happening nationally and regionally including how the Network is working collaboratively on various activities. It is also about sharing practice throughout the year to compliment the annual Museum Development conference.

If you have any questions or suggestions for content for future issues, please contact Jennie Pitceathly, MDN Coordinator (freelance)  [email protected]

Arts Council England update

by Isabel Wilson, Senior Manager Museums Development, Arts Council England

Arts Council’s 10 year strategy 2020-2030

This will guide our work in England over the next decade and will be published at the end of 2019. It is quite different from the current strategy with the outcomes and investment principles rather than goals. It will focus our work helping support museums to adapt and thrive. Alongside it there will be a shorter term delivery plan which will be published in Spring 2020. Thank you to those of you who fed in your views to help shape it.

National pilots

MD teams in England are currently delivering two national pilot programmes. The first is called Audience Champions where cohorts of museums in four regions are using Audience Finder and working with the Audience Agency and Museum Development to collect visitor data and draft evidence-based audience development plans.

The second pilot involves six MD regions using thirty Impact & Insight Toolkit licences from 2019-22. MD teams will be helping museums gain a 3-dimensional view of the quality of their exhibitions and events to help inform programme planning and development.

National MD training/workshops

Isabel manages a discreet budget to deliver national training for MDOs. Ideas for training include business/management training; a digital workshop and a session on children and young people. Please contact Isabel if you have other ideas for training or if you would like to help shape these sessions via a working group. [email protected]

Museum Development annual survey

Jamie Everitt (SHARE Regional Museums Development Manager) and Vic Harding (Programme Manager, South West Museum Development) are supporting a review of the annual survey that MD teams issue to regional museums. The aim is to strengthen the survey to gain good insight into the health of the museum sector at both regional and national levels. A contractor will start in November 2019 to carry out this work in consultation with MD and other stakeholders. The reviewed survey will be ready for use in 2020.

Arts Council resources

ACE has published a new recruitment and workforce development toolkit. Click here to view the toolkit.

Did you know?

When the ethos of a museums or the religion of its trustees is opposed to gambling which means they cannot access Lottery funds, they can still apply to Arts Council. ACE have a tick box within the application form for Project Grants for applicants to select if they object to receiving Lottery funds for religious or ethical reasons. If they tick this box their application (if eligible) would be allocated to a Grant in Aid budget. The process would be exactly the same and they would be at no advantage or disadvantage compared to Lottery applicants.

Northern Ireland Museums Council update

by Tríona White Hamilton, Development Officer (Museums and Collections), Northern Ireland Museums Council

The Northern Ireland Museums Council continues to demonstrate leadership that is vitally important to the creativity and impact of the local museum sector in Northern Ireland. The MD team are immensely proud of a number of current audience development projects delivered with our partners such as:

  • The Late Shift, a series of after dark happenings in museums for over 18’s.
  • Reimagine, Remake, Replay, a project allowing young people (16-25 year olds) to connect with and enhance museum collections using a mix of creative media and the latest digital technologies.
  • Playful Museums, engaging under 5’s and their carers with museums.
  • Dementia Friendly Programme, supporting museums to ‘become dementia friendly’.
  • A Brush With Nature, a programme celebrating cultural diversity in NI.

The Museums Council continues to work to improve standards in governance, collections care and visitor experiences within the sector. In September 2019 we will celebrate Full Accreditation for 5 of our local museums and being registered to ‘Working to become dementia friendly’ for 6 museums during an Awards ceremony.

Since April our annual training programme has delivered 3 training sessions to 40 museum staff, through which we are building capacity and enhancing the resilience of the sector. The Museums Council has recently been successful in securing £15,000 from Esme Mitchell to enable local museums to develop their collections.

The Museums Council is the main advocate for local museums in Northern Ireland and continues to provide up to date advice, guidance and information to the sector. However, the Museums Council is operating in very difficult financial circumstances. With rising costs, the provision of an annual budget, rather than via a three-year cycle of funding, presents significant challenges regarding long term planning. As a consequence, a review of NIMC and its work will be carried out to re-focus the Museums Council’s business in the coming year.

Accreditation news

by Annette French, Museums Accreditation Manager, Arts Council England

Rollout in England

The first Accreditation returns against the 2018 Standard are underway and everything’s been going smoothly so far! Thanks to everyone for your help getting things back up and running after a long break during the Standard’s review.

Click here to view the Accreditation returns timetable. If museums anticipate difficulties meeting these deadlines, please encourage them to contact the central Accreditation team. Although extensions are not automatically granted, where flexibility is needed, we work to a maximum two tranche deferral. Requests should come directly from the museum to the Accreditation inbox at [email protected]


Once assessors have completed their initial review, any questions or requests for further information are made via Grantium. Museums now receive up to two requests for further information. If there are outstanding issues after six weeks, we’ll likely recommend a provisional award.

Grantium and online application/return form

All technical support requests and Grantium queries come to the central enquiries team at Arts Council. The customer services team provide user support for all UK Accredited museums: telephone 0161 9344317 or email [email protected]

Accreditation Committee

We are currently recruiting to the UK Accreditation Committee with vacancies for a new Chair and up to 8 Committee members. Click here for further details and please share with your networks.

Staffing update

Owen Englefield, Accreditation Assistant at ACE is taking a 6-month secondment with the business systems team in Manchester from October. We will be recruiting to this role to back-fill this post. Thanks to Owen and good luck with the new role.

News from other Sector Support Organisations

The Audience Agency has recently published a Visual Arts Report which drills down into the data collated nationally to demonstrate which audiences are engaging with the visual arts. The report looks at the market data, participant motivations, where they live in relation to the venue/s and the visitor experience. The report is aimed at CEOs to inform strategy and advocacy, marketeers to help them promote visual arts and curators to support programming decisions. Click here to read the report.

Arts & Heritage are delivering a 4 year programme supporting museums to work with contemporary artists. Meeting Point is programme includes training for artists and museums / heritage staff and commissioning opportunities for museums to work with contemporary artists. Two rounds of Meeting Point have already taken place and Arts & Heritage are currently delivering a third round of the programme with museums and heritage sites in the North of England. The next two rounds of the programme will occur in the Midlands and the South of England. Click here for more information.

MDN Working Group updates

Business Diagnostic 

by Kaye Hardyman, Chair of the MDN Business Diagnostic Group and Museum Development Officer, North West

The Business Diagnostics Working Group has secured £5000 from ACE to further develop the Business Diagnostic Tool. We are commissioning consultant Heather Lomas to help the group to:

  • develop the tool based on recommendations from pilot evaluation report
  • draft guidance for MD and museums to improve use of the tool
  • develop a timetable for second phase pilot
  • draft an evaluation framework.

The contract will be completed in December 2019; with the aim of running a second business diagnostic pilot from January 2020.


by Jamie Everitt, Chair of the MDN Training Working Group and SHARE Regional Museums Development Manager

The Training Working Group has developed standardised booking and evaluation forms to capture formative and summative evaluation data from delegates who attend MD training events.

The standard evaluation form builds on the data captured by the booking form to measure the learning outcomes and progression of delegates. Most regions are using Survey Monkey or Smart Survey to capture their evaluation data. Top-line data is collated regionally and sent to Roz Bonnet from the South West Museum Development Programme, who coordinates training data capture.

The evaluation form also asks delegates if MD teams can contact them further down the line so that we are able to measure the longer-term impact that the training has on their professional practice. This longitudinal evaluation will be carried out at quarterly intervals and 12 months after the original training, and is a key factor in measuring targets set by ACE for the MD teams in England.

The Group’s next piece of work is a further evaluation form to measure the impact that training individual members of staff has on a museum. The Group will be undertaking this work in the autumn, with the aim of getting it signed off by the MDN Committee in the new year for use by MD colleagues early in 2020.

Regional Team updates:

Museum Development North West (MDNW) has published a Contemporary Collecting Toolkit to support museums to consider new areas of collecting. The toolkit will be updated next year with new North West case studies from museums who took part in the region’s Contemporary Collecting pilot programme in 2018-19. Click here to view the toolkit.

As a legacy of the MDNW Age Friendly Accessibility Programme 2018-2019, MDNW has produced the Age Friendly Museums’ toolkit that aims to help museums think about their offer to older people. It comprises the Age-Friendly Standards self-assessment checklist from the Family Arts Campaign, with some modifications to make it more bespoke to the museum sector and a separate checklist only version with additional functionality so it can be completed electronically.

Click here for the Checklist and Click here to view the full publication.

Other news

Save the date – The 2020 annual Museum Development Conference will take place 17 June 2020 at Port Sunlight Village, Wirral.

The Museum+ Heritage (M+H) Show is looking for case studies on the topic of Understanding your Visitors. In particular they are seeking examples of where museums have discover more about their visitors and then used this knowledge to drive change at their venue. The M+H Show is in May 2020 and they are looking to collect case studies in October 2019. Please contact Claire Browne at Museum Development East Midlands if you have a case study to contribute. [email protected]

MDO Spotlight

interview with Ian Bapty, Museum Development Manager NE

what attracted you to the role? 

A combination of things really. I am a relative new comer to the North East and it’s been a real pleasure to start to explore and become familiar with the landscape, places, people, culture and heritage of this remarkable and contrasting region. Alongside that I’ve always been a bit of a heritage and museums buff, so when the chance to do a job which kind of combined both those things – supporting museums around the region to present and preserve the stories and history of the North East in ways which are central to the lives of people today – well it was a ‘no brainer’ to go for it and I was delighted to land the job.

how long have you been in post and what did you do previously? 

A little over three months, so just about long enough to get my feet under the table and to reach the dangerous stage when I might think I know what I’m doing! I’m an archaeologist by professional background and have worked widely on community based projects in the heritage, environment and museums sectors. Most recently I was working for the Church of England. I was leading a project to help local church communities develop and care for their church buildings and historic contents (many Grade 1 or Grade 2* listed), and actually the challenges and issues around sustainability, attracting new audiences, and being responsible for complicated and fragile historic assets were closely similar to those many museums face.

what are your current challenges in the role?

I think the biggest challenges for me are not the role in itself, but finding effective ways with the limited resources of our Museum Development Programme to meet the major challenges many museums are facing. Anyone who works in museums can reel these off – from funding to collections management procedures and engaging volunteers – but I think the key one is around capacity.

The North East has many amazing small independent museums which are mainly or entirely volunteer run – for example, I had a great day recently at the Bellingham Heritage Centre, a brilliant and vibrant local history museum in the wilds of rural Northumberland – and there is no lack of skills and innovation among the fantastic people who give up so much time to run such facilities. But what they don’t always have are the numbers of personnel and to some extent the full range of skills, to take forward everything they want to do. So, there is a challenge there – in part doing more with less, but also crucially attracting new audiences and people to the museum sector – and that isn’t going to go away.

what projects are you currently working on? 

We have a project to build better links with universities in the North East. We are exploring how we can connect university based skills to the research and collections development needs of our museums, and I think there could be some exciting outputs from that process. I’m also busy defining our ‘Enterprising Museums’ programme – this will be working with six museums to help them develop their commercial ‘offer’ including sales through shop and café activities.

best part of the job in one sentence?

Very simply, meeting amazing people who are doing amazing things for visitors and their communities via some truly amazing collections.