Day 2 of the Museum Summer School in Lori, Armenia (Ronan Brindley, Manchester Art Gallery)

Currently, Ronan Brindley, ITP UK Partner Representative at Manchester Art Gallery, is back in Armenia with ITP fellows Hayk Mkrtchyan (ITP 2014/Senior Fellow 2017), Marine Mkrtchyan (ITP 2014), Davit Poghosyan (ITP 2015) and Astghik Marabyan (ITP 2017) running a museum summer school! This follows the ITP, Museum Education Center and Manchester Art Gallery workshop Learning, education and museums, held in Yerevan in October 2016.

Hear about Day 2 of the summer school from Ronan below…

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

Smart Center - Ground Level View

SMART Center, Lori, where the summer school is taking place

Yesterday really picked up on the momentum of the first day. Debate kicked off about communities, how diverse they can be and what makes for a meaningful dialogue between museums and communities. When we say ‘our museum’, who is the ‘our’ and how do we find a middle ground between an asset-based and a needs-based approach?

With Ani - the brilliant translator who made my jumbled words make sense

Ronan with Ani, ‘the brilliant translator who made my jumbled words make sense!’

Conceptual and theoretical, perhaps, but what was noticeable was the spirit with which the discussion flowed. Everybody raised ideas, concerns and objections they faced. What if local audiences were indifferent? What if they had other priorities, like being in a conflict zone?

Lots of issues to be discussed on Day 3, but we all showed a real commitment to thinking about how our museums should connect with new groups – examples being rural housewives, communities who have forgotten wood-crafting skills, 18-35 year olds and non-engaged families.

The Lori Summer School group

The Lori summer school group. Can you spot some familiar ITP faces here?

At the end of the day, we visited the poet Hovhannes Tumanyan’s house and then drove a few kilometres down country tracks to dinner at a local family’s farmhouse.

Weighty museum matters early on, then grounded by eating a locally cooked and sourced banquet outside.  I won’t say in the middle of nowhere: it was in the middle of north Armenia.  And it was amazing (see the photo)!

Banquet in rural Armenia. Paradise.

Banquet in rural Armenia. Paradise.

Fresh vegetables, herbs, cheeses, bbq meats, wine and coffee.  An artist and gallery director brought his own fruit vodka for toasts, of which there were many. And several were owed to the DVV International Armenian Country Office and the Children of Armenia Fund for making all this happen.  Not only are they sponsors, but they really connect with the spirit of the work – they believe in culture and museums.  Massive thanks – they, with the BM and ITP, make these cultural connections happen.