Connecting RAMM with its visitors

Artwork from RAMM's membership newsletter, Connect
Artwork image: Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery

Is art and culture part of who you are? Do you jump at the chance to see a big name? Or do you prefer something a little more untested or risky? These are the kinds of questions explored in a new initiative I had the pleasure of project managing for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) in Exeter recently.

The new project, a free online membership scheme, enables the multi-award-winning museum to get to know its visitors better and to tailor its programmes, activities and communications according different visitors’ interests. It uses a model developed by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre to understand the way different people relate to art and culture.

RAMM commissioned me to provide overarching project management – supporting an interdisciplinary museum team to overcome complex data management and communications challenges and to design new processes from scratch.

I always enjoy working with the RAMM team and this time I had the added pleasure of managing an external design contract, working with an agency to create a compelling visual identity for RAMM Membership.

I was excited then, to see one of the first fruits of our work drop into my inbox this afternoon – the first edition of the new RAMM Membership newsletter, Connect.

An annual report


Artist Caitlin Heffernan prepares her installation at the Museum of Somerset as part of Muse: Makers in Museums. Image courtesy: Muse: Makers in Museums. Photo: Christopher Jelley











I won’t lie. It’s been a challenging year personally. But in the best tradition of those who are given lemons I’m delighted to have turned out a stronger business performance this year.

Packaging my income and expenditure records off to the accountant feels like a good moment to take stock.

2017-18 has again been testing for the cultural sector. But I’m pleased to have been able to provide clients with the thoughtful and responsive services that have contributed, in some small way, to ensuring that the best culture and creativity continues to be a reality.

Highlights of the past year include supporting the team at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) in Exeter to articulate the museum’s growing contribution to Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, as part of a successful bid for National Portfolio Organisation status. I can’t wait to see how their programme develops.

I’m thrilled also to be working on my home patch with the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, as it embarks on an exciting extension project that will give the town the museum it deserves. Evaluating the accompanying activity plan is a delight.

And in a year when I’ve been happy to reconnect with old friends in Barnstaple, I’ve also been pleased to evaluate Muse: Makers in Museums, a project to engage communities with museums through 8 contemporary artist commissions, initiated by a former colleague now working for South West Heritage Trust.

I won’t forget, either, taking my first steps back into creative writing with the Arvon Foundation and securing an Arts Council funded TLC free read.

Moving into 2018-19, I’m looking forward to evaluating visitor experience in RAMM’s redeveloped Africa Galleries, which open in May. And I’m pleased to continue my Artistic and Quality Assessor work for Arts Council England for a fourth year. Having reported on some exciting exhibitions at galleries including Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry and Ikon in Birmingham in 2017-18, my first task for the coming year is to assess an exhibition by current Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid at Harris Art Gallery in Preston. I can’t wait.

So here’s to another year of resilience, rebuilding and imagination.

Evaluating impact

I have a couple of interesting evaluation contracts on the go at present – for South West Heritage Trust and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. It’s great to be able to support these two organisations in capturing the impact of their projects.

Artist Jacky Oliver with her commission for Muse: Makers in Museums. Inspired by Teign Heritage Centre’s boatbuilding collections. Photo: Gillian Taylor

8 years, 31 museums, 47 artists and over a million audience

'Ghostwriter' digital installation by Blast Theory at RAMM, Exeter. Commissioned as part of New Expressions 2. Photo courtesy New Expressions and RAMM.
‘Ghostwriter’ digital installation by Blast Theory at RAMM, Exeter. Commissioned as part of New Expressions 2. Photo courtesy New Expressions and RAMM.

For almost a decade New Expressions has enabled artists and museums to make creatively challenging work together. As one of the people who kick-started the whole thing in 2008, and stuck with it as it developed, under others’ leadership, into a national programme, it was pleasing recently to produce a publication capturing the eight year trajectory.

Published by New Expressions and researched, written (with contributions from others) and produced by myself, this advocacy document tells the story of how, from Cornwall to Cumbria, 31 museums and 47 artists came to make fresh cultural encounters for more than a million people.

The latest publication joins my programme evaluation and a collection of professional resources and case studies for museum-artist collaboration that I produced early last year (again, with some contributions from others).

‘Unlocking the Creative Potential of Collections 2008-2016’ is downloadable from the New Expressions website.

Working with RAMM and The Creative Case for Diversity

I’m pleased to be working with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) in Exeter on its case for the next four years’ funding as part of Arts Council’s national portfolio.

Excitingly, I’ll have a particular focus on RAMM’s contribution to ‘The Creative Case for Diversity’. Let’s hope we can bring some of those untold stories through…

I tried to think of an image for this update, but the whole thing about diversity is that a singular image won’t do…

30 Museums go Wild Swimming

'DUST' (detail) (2015) Neville Gabie, Joan Gabie, Ian Cook. Part of a project with Flow Contemporary Arts
‘DUST’ (detail) (2015) Neville Gabie, Joan Gabie, Ian Cook. Part of a project with Flow Contemporary Arts. Photo: Drew Lefay

To find out what on earth I am talking about, come to my talk of that title at University of the Arts London on Friday 28 October 2016.

Actually, I’ll be talking about the regional and national scope of the New Expressions programme’s work with museums across England.

Part of a symposium, The Artist in a Collected World, from University of the Arts London.