MA Conference 2018 reflections (Heba Khairy, ITP 2017, Egypt)
Heba Khairy (ITP 2017) Curator, Grand Egyptian Museum
This week I attended the annual MA Conference, this year held at the Belfast waterfront conference centre. The conference is the biggest event of its kind in Europe for museum and heritage professionals and the UK MA is the oldest museum association in the world; established in 1882 and with approximately 8,700 individual members from all over the globe. I find their mission inspiring: museums change lives by socially engaging with communities. This year the conference theme was, Dissent: inspiring hope, embracing change – having the courage to challenge traditional thinking to transform museums and society.
The conference highlighted inspiring work from across the world that engaged museums with the core of their communities and transforms people’s lives. The MA highlights the role that museums can play as dissenting institutions, supporting their communities to promote positive social change.
My first day at the conference started with a networking breakfast for first-time delegates, to get involved with the conference schedule and speakers, and exhibition of companies and individuals working with museums and display designs.
Across the two days I chose many sessions based on their relevance to my professional and academic interests. The sessions shed light on how museum collections can be more empowering, relevant and dynamic. The speakers shared their fields of interests and successful project experiences in their museums; they came from various museums within UK but also from various museums around the world including South Africa, USA and Japan.
Particularly successful sessions for me were those which touched on museums engaging with different kinds of communities, culminating in difference audiences viewing their local museums as social hubs and spaces. Personally, “Remix Museums” was one of the most effective projects; it is a youth program created by Brighton Youth Film Festival to engage and attract young people with museums and heritage sites in Brighton (ITP programme partner and MA conference host in 2019). The project conducted animation and GIF workshops for young people, encouraging them to use museum collections and heritage sites. I found engaging young people with interpreting museum collections through creating animations was very clever. It was a fun, exciting and interactive project which uses both everyday advanced technology devices such as tables and mobile phones to explore new ways of learning and engaging with the past and present by combining old and new.
Another successful project presented was conducted by ITP UK Partner Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. The project aimed to empower women to rediscover themselves, their identity and equality, through engaging with and interpreting TWAM’s collections. The project duration was six weeks and focused on women’s mental health, inspirational women, women against violence, women’s relationships and equality. The project conducted a good number of sessions, workshops and discussions with a range of women of a variety of ages; the discussions which took place helped participants to reconsider body image, self-confidence, financial independence and to build new relationships which affect their lives in a positive way.
Some speakers also spoke about the cultural sector and soft power; how cultural exchange between different countries can promote respect for and appreciation of different cultures and values. History and heritage are identities people are proud of and can be a means of resolving social tensions and conflicts in the future.
Listening to such successful, inspiring and effective experiences and projects and getting involved in this round table discussions and activities presented me with a window into museum life around the world and allowed me to learn from and exchange actual ideas and experiences. This conference really proved to me that museums can change people’s lives, and how museums can provide audiences with the opportunity to rediscover themselves and re-discover the museum objects.
The conference was a great chance to network with professionals from all over the globe, to learn from their experiences , exchange and share ideas and approaches from our museums. It was also a great chance to meet old friends, to discuss our latest projects and personal stories.