Season’s Greetings and Reflections on 2020

Written by George Peckham, International Training Programme Assistant

We wish the global network of ITP fellows, partners, supporters and followers Season’s Greetings and all the best for the coming year!

What a year 2020 has been. It’s been a year that none of us could have expected and has brought with it many challenges. Most importantly, we hope you are all entering the New Year in good health following what has been a very difficult year for all of us.

It has been a challenging year for ITP. In March, the British Museum, like many museums in the UK and around the world, closed its doors for the first time in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff were asked for work from home, meaning Claire, Anna and I were working on plans for the ITP remotely. It was during this time we took the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Programme. Participants who were selected to attend the Programme this year have been invited to attend in 2021. We are looking forward to our next group of ITP participants finally being able to join us next year and to grow our global network.

We were also forced to postpone our latest legacy project. In April, we were looking forward to welcoming all 7 of our ITP Senior Fellows back to the British Museum. ITP Futures was going to be a 5-day ‘discussion’ on the future of the International Training Programme. This project will now begin online, with the aim to reconnect with the Senior Fellows virtually before they can return to the UK at a future date next year.

In April, the Museum took the decision to place the majority of its staff on special ‘furlough’ leave until further notice. Claire, Anna and I were not able to do any work on the ITP during this time. Claire returned to the work part-time in August, while Anna and I were finally able to join her in November.

Upon returning to work, we have been thinking up new and exciting ways to remain connected with our global network of 299 ITP fellows, our programme partners and the wider cultural heritage community.

In October and November, the ITP team, along with members of the network, should have been in Edinburgh for the Museum Associations (MA) annual conference for 2020. With the Conference postponed, the ITP attended a unique online MA Conference at the beginning of November with the theme of the World Turned Upside Down: Exploring the Future of Museums. The conference explored these changes, opportunities and how museums could rise to the challenges currently faced and looked at the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Climate Crisis.

We posted daily on the ITP blogsite and other social media channels with the aim of sharing useful and insightful information alongside resources to help our fellows rise to the challenges which have arisen in this incredibly turbulent year. These included:

  • Future Museum Skills.
  • Repatriation and restitution.
  • Decolonisation
  • Climate Change
  • Reopening Museums
  • Digital Collections.
  • Learning and Engagement
  • COVID-Secure Learning.

You can read all of our blogs from the virtual MA Conference by clicking here.

Our MA Conference trip was not the only project which we were forced to move online in 2020. This year’s collaboration with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) also had to be conducted remotely. This year’s team of Kyle, Kevin, Nick and Esteban, were unable to travel to the UK to work with us on an exciting new online exhibition. The group have worked to create an online exhibition based around the work done by ITP fellows for Object in focus. Despite working remotely, and without the usual support from the ITP team, WPI managed a create a framework for an online exhibition which we hope to share in the New Year.

Social media has become as important as ever to the ITP as we all aim to stay connected digitally. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the ITP blog this year. We are always happy to receive blogs from the network about a variety of topics. We would love to hear from more of you in 2021! It was great to see so many of the network get involved in online trends such as #Museum30 and #MuseumPassion. We should definitely plan to do more of those in the future.

But perhaps the biggest success of the ITP in 2020 has been our Subject Specialist Online Sessions! Since October we have been organizing online events in order to continue to share knowledge, skills and experiences. In 2020 we had an excellent programme of 12 online sessions, given by ITP fellows, British Museum staff and network partners. One of the early successes of these online sessions was our virtual discussion on ‘COVID-Collecting.’ The ITP network was able to discuss collecting objects relating to the varied global responses to the pandemic. Colleagues shared their collecting stories; aims and objectives; ethical considerations and reflections on their learning for the future. We aim to continue to collaborate with the ITP network on COVID Collecting in 2021.

All of the online events have been recorded and will be made available as a resource on the ITP blogsite. We would like to thank all of the speakers and session leaders from the 2020 events and everyone who was able to attend an online session this year.

The online sessions will continue into 2021 and we hope to share more details about them soon. We hope these sessions can develop into more structured e-learning which can take place remotely.

Looking ahead, we have more plans to stay connected virtually with the ITP network. We hope to share more details of some exciting projects we are working on very soon. And we are also hoping that as the world begins to heal from last 12-months, that we can once again reconnect physically with members of the network.

Throwback Thursday has become a new feature of the ITP blog – where we look back at Summer Programmes and Legacy Projects from years gone by. You can read them all here.

While the current global pandemic has physically kept us part, in many ways we feel more closely connected to the ITP network than ever! Our circumstances have forced us to adapt to new ways of communicating and staying connected. The new ways we have all kept in touch will remain part of the ITP well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you to everyone who has engaged with us this year, be it through social media, by email, or through our online sessions. We all look forward to a happy and more hopeful year to come, with exciting ITP projects in development we can’t wait to share with you!