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Our Museum

About the initiative

Our Museum: Communities and Museums as Active Partners was an initiative to facilitate a process of development and organisational change within museums and galleries that are committed to active partnership within your communities, with the ambition of affecting the museum sector more widely.

The learning from the Our Museum programme may be relevant if you are applying to our Arts Access and Participation fund and so these pages are intended as an additional resource to help guide you during the application process.

This initiative aimed to:

  • support and develop museums and galleries to place community needs, values, aspirations and active collaboration at the core of their work
  • involve communities and individuals in core decision-making processes and to implement the decisions taken
  • ensure that museums and galleries play an effective role in developing community skills, through volunteering, training, apprenticeships, etc.
  • share exemplary new models with the broader museum sector

Our Museum was the culmination of a careful consultation process started in 2008 with market research company LUCID and a research phase led by Dr Bernadette Lynch. Her report (summarised in our publication Whose cake is it anyway?) concluded that the funding invested in recent years in public engagement and participation in the UK’s museums and galleries has not succeeded in shifting the work from the margins to the core of many of these organisations. Lynch followed Who’s Cake is it Away? with a progress report exploring the progress made by the organisations after the first two years of the Our Museum programme

Our Museum offered support for organisations to manage significant structural change. It was not about short-term project funding, but about facilitating organisational change so that participatory work becomes core, embedded, sustainable and less at risk of being marginalised when specific funding streams run out.

The distinctive characteristic of Our Museum was a collaborative and reflective learning process through which institutions and communities share their experiences and learn from each other as critical friends.