Autumn landscape view of Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds with trees, river, blue sky, clouds and traditional stone building on the left.

We’ve now spent half a year working with the 10 Gloucestershire museums participating in our project, Rebuilding the Foundations (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund), and it’s been quite a journey.

This project is managed by South West Museum Development’s Thematic Officers, Rachel Miller and Eleanor Moore, and co-ordinated by our appointed Partnerships and Project Coordinator, Anna Bryant.

Crucially it is supported by four consultants who specialise in the project’s themes – Audience Development, Volunteering, Safeguarding, and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – and also an external evaluator. This brings both extra capacity as well as an external perspective to the challenges faced by the museums, appreciated by everyone taking part.

Reviewing, planning and finally meeting in person

Once consultants had given them interim recommendations in October and November, the museums went through an in-depth internal review process. The recommendations were focused on helping each museum get ready to engage with a wider range of people, both as audiences and volunteers, and reviewing priorities and resource needs, including skills development. This was supported by:

  • Museum Skills training delivered by the consultants (which were open to the wider museum community).
  • Online discussions.
  • Three Peer Network meetings. 

After two Zoom meetings, we finally got to meet in person in September at Gloucester Heritage Hub and Museum in the Park in Stroud, and in November at Dean Heritage Centre. It was cold with all the windows open, but worth it! At these meetings we discussed topics related to project development, including partnership working, communication, evaluation, planning and prioritising. 

What the museums really appreciated about these sessions, though, was the chance to share their common issues, as well as ideas and experience, making new support contacts and reviving old ones. The new Gloucestershire MDO, Jenni Orme, was also able to come and meet everyone at the November meeting, and is now supporting the project through to its legacy after March 2022.

Next steps for Rebuilding the Foundations

The project team have started visiting the participating museums, to evaluate what has happened so far, as well as developing their readiness to engage with a wider range of people, including through developing partnership opportunities in their local communities to support audience and volunteer goals. 

December to February will be key months to turn the consultants’ recommendations into delivering additional in depth support and action plans, to rebuild the museums’ foundations in audience development and volunteering enabling them to welcome a wider range of people from spring 2022. 

Evaluation of the project will examine the model of working in a cohort and building peer networks for collaboration and support. Resources will be produced by South West Museum Development so that we can support other museums in the South West with these priorities and share our learning from the project in the future. 

Find out more

Learn more about the project on the Rebuilding the Foundations: Gloucestershire’s Museums project pages. To contact the team, please send us a message using our Contact Form and select ‘Projects’.

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