Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Working with teenagers in museums and galleries

I gave a course yesterday on engaging with young people for Creating Capacity. Although designed for anyone in the cultural heritage sector, in fact all the delegates were from museums and galleries, with responsibility either for learning or for audience development, so we were able to focus exclusively on those settings.

The discussions about teenagers’ needs and expectations and ways to meet them were fascinating. It was great to hear about fabulous initiatives from each of the delegates, and to have the opportunity to explore the success factors and the challenges, and the relative merits of one-off events and on-going projects. I found the debate about time-scales for the latter particularly interesting.

Not surprisingly, every successful event or programme we talked about – those the delegates had initiated, and the case studies I brought with me – featured active engagement by the young people involved, and a flexible approach that responded to individuals’ interests and skills. All also produced something tangible, either that the teenagers took away, or that could be shared with a wider audience. We heard about concerts of music written and performed by young people, about exhibitions curated by young people, about an online photography book, about animations shown in museums and online, about poetry slams and a whole lot more.

There were so many valuable discussions. The conversation about universal offers versus targeted promotions was an especially important one. Marketing and promotion were hotly debated. Social networking was seen as crucial, needless to say, but face-to-face communication scored very highly too. Everybody agreed the importance of partnership working. And under-scoring everything was the necessity for detailed planning and effective evaluation.

For anyone interested, there is more about my courses on working with teenagers in museums and galleries here.