Rebuilding the Foundations: Gloucestershire’s Museums

Our National Lottery Heritage Fund project supporting ten museums in Gloucestershire to critically examine and improve their approaches to audience development and volunteer involvement.

About the project

Rebuilding the Foundations: Gloucestershire’s Museums is a National Lottery Heritage funded project which focuses on securing a future for museums that is engaged, relevant and sustainable.

Heritage Fund logoIt is a development journey to empower ten participant museums to build capacity, skills and confidence. These museums face fundamental challenges to their resilience which have been exacerbated and accelerated by Covid-19.

This project will aid their recovery and increase their resilience by:

  • developing the capacity of the volunteer workforce
  • supporting them to engage with a broader audience who find themselves better reflected in the voluntary workforce,
  • building expertise and confidence
  • promoting the museums as unique parts of Gloucestershire’s cultural landscapes
  • boosting successful cultural recovery by supporting the development of new practices in volunteering and audience development
  • engaging together through peer networking, training and joint problem-solving

The project is delivered by a project team of South West Museum Development Officers, including Rachel Miller, Audience Development Officer; Eleanor Moore, Sustainable Volunteering Officer; and Helen McConnell Simpson, MDO for Gloucestershire, as well as a Project and Partnerships co-ordinator. Appointed specialist consultants in Audience Development; Equality and Diversity; Safeguarding; Success Planning and Recruitment will work closely with participant museums. The participants will form a peer network and support one another to rebuild the foundations of Gloucestershire’s museums.

Overview – Project Activities

Rebuilding Foundations will interrogate current models of volunteer involvement and audience engagement and to invigorate museums’ thinking around appropriate structures and internal processes that help them to roadmap for the future.  Through this project, museums will plan offers and opportunities that are more relevant and result in an increased capacity and diversity of volunteers, leading to increased engagement and diversity in audiences and with their communities in order to deliver long-term resilience.

Steps the project will take:

  • Diagnostic process to provide a baseline understanding of each organisation
  • Development of priorities for each organisation and the wider cohort
  • Additional specialist volunteering support to help museums get ready to attract, recruit and retain volunteers – a route map for successful volunteer recruitment to meet their needs
  • Additional specialist audience development support for planning and priority-setting for audience development
  • Additional tailored, practical help with:
    • equality and diversity in relation to volunteer engagement
    • safeguarding, as appropriate to size and scale of their organisation
  • Bring the museums together for inspiration, peer learning and support:
    • sharing theory and relevant practice linked to the project priorities
    • providing opportunities for peer learning, action learning and engagement between workforces, encouraging informal communications and problem solving between museums
  • practical tools to support museums’ work going forward:
    • volunteer recruitment – to build and maintain the right volunteer team
    • stakeholder support  – a network of potential local partner/stakeholder organisations
    • audience development – a route map to widening reach, engagement and meeting the needs of more diverse audiences
  • An audience development plan for each museum that suits their setting and is formed from relevant audience insights and specialist support, facilitating new and resilient ways of future working
  • Costs to enable museums to participate, and to support on the ground delivery of project activity
  • Development of a resource and sharing day to pass on learning more widely across the county, region and beyond to encourage this formula for joint working between museums in the future