A New Armenian Adventure: Ronan Brindley (Manchester Art Gallery) & Hayk Mkrtchyan (ITP 2014/Senior Fellow 2017)

Written by Ronan Brindley, Head of Learning, Manchester Art Gallery (ITP UK Partner Representative: Manchester)

Sitting in the late afternoon sunshine in Manchester, it is difficult to think that this time next Tuesday, I’ll be in Armenia with my dear friend, Hayk Mkrtchyan (ITP 2014/Senior Fellow 2017), about to embark on another museum adventure.

The seeds of this go back to October 2016, when a group of us – an eclectic mix of the BM’s ITP team, representatives of ITP hosts and some recent Fellows – travelled to Yerevan to join with Armenian museum educators to discuss the future of learning in museums and galleries. What emerged at the fabulous Cafesjian Arts Centre, perched with views across Yerevan, was a wonderful blend of workshop, conference and convocation that captured a real spirit of learning together and sharing some wonderful practices and ideas.  We were all captivated by the country, the museum professionals that we met, and the Armenian culture that we encountered, captured so amazingly by their museums. I have to confess that from the moment our plane took off from Zvartnots airport, I was determined to return.

Ronan Hayk ITP 2017

Reunited in Manchester during ITP summer programme 2017

Scroll on to summer 2017 when Hayk came to the UK as the ITP Senior Fellow and we began scheming again (I suspect we’re getting a reputation at ITP HQ).  What if Hayk and I could take some of the best bits from the Yerevan ’16 experience, scale them down (but not the ambition) to make them practical and resource efficient, and transport this way of working together to another part of Armenia?


SMART Center, Lori

And so our workshop was born, and will soon be taking place in an amazing setting in the north of Armenia. From Hayk’s extensive network, he selected the newly opened SMART Center in the province of Lori, and they have agreed to host and join the three-day summer school. This collaboration has been possible thanks to Ester Hakobyan, who works for COAF Armenia and is responsible for the DVV International Country Office, which finances Museum Education Centers.

Myself, Hayk, Marine Mkrtchyan (ITP 2014), Astghik Marabyan (ITP 2017) and Davit Poghosyan (ITP 2015) have been busy writing up a programme, and invitations are going out to museums around Armenia. We’re hoping to attract between 10-20 delegates to join in discussions, present their ideas and work together to advance our concepts of how museums can connect with communities.  Above all, I want to recapture the spirit of Yerevan ’16 when we came together as equals, shared our experiences and came away enhanced by common aims and ideas.  As an additional step for Lori ’18, I’d like to see if we can develop the format of an idea laboratory, where we can collaboratively test ideas and play around with concepts of community collaboration.

In a way it seems like a long two years since I’ve been to Armenia, but I’m nearly there.

Ronan Brindley