Recent visits include the UK-China Museum Dialogue in Beijing, Digital Memories Conference in Beijing, 25th Annual Museology Symposium in Antalya (Turkey), and the Moving Museums project in Kosovo.

Iain Watson, Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums returned this month from speaking at the 25th Annual Museology Symposium, Antalya. At the event, organised by Ankara University for 600 museum directors from across Turkey, he spoke about TWAM’s digital work.

Antalya has a unique connection with the North East as one of its star attractions, Hadrian’s Gate, was built around the same time as Hadrian’s Wall – AD 130 and was built to commemorate the visit of the emperor to the city. It is building these connections and sharing knowledge that Watson says is key to survival in economically challenging times for the museums and library sectors.

“Given the economic challenges of recent years, it’s important all museums and galleries adapt to become more sustainable and innovative in their approach to areas such as programming and audience development,” he said. “TWAM has succeeded in developing new revenue streams and creating partnerships that have helped grow visitor numbers. We’re in a unique position to share our knowledge and experience with colleagues across the world who face similar issues.”

In October 2015 Watson joined colleagues from the National Archives of the Netherlands, the National Archives of Taiwan and the National Library of Singapore at the Digital Memories Conference in Beijing to talk to more than 200 delegates about TWAM’s Hidden Newcastle app.

Developed in partnership with NE1 – Newcastle’s business improvement district company – the free app is based on real-life stories of Newcastle and its residents that have taken place over the past 800 years. “Delegates were keen to know more about TWAM’s innovative approach to digital memory exhibitions and how embracing new technologies has enabled the organisation to provide greater access to its museum and archive resources,” said Watson.

SHOW – AUTUMN SERIES – BANNER – Homepage

Developed in partnership with NE1 – Newcastle’s business improvement district company – the free app is based on real-life stories of Newcastle and its residents that have taken place over the past 800 years. “Delegates were keen to know more about TWAM’s innovative approach to digital memory exhibitions and how embracing new technologies has enabled the organisation to provide greater access to its museum and archive resources,” said Watson.

As well as the director’s visits, last month Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes at TWAM, visited Kosovo as part of the British Council’s Moving Museums project. Designed to attract new audiences to museums across the Western Balkans – particularly young people in the 18-24 age group – the initiative sees UK museums work in partnership with museums in Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania. The four-day workshop, developed and led by Griffiths, shared examples of best practice in youth and community engagement as well as successful outreach projects.

“Having the opportunity to share all the positive work taking place at TWAM encourages us to innovate even more,” said Griffiths. “Colleagues from all over the world have been inspired by what we’re doing and by sharing our knowledge and experience we’re helping to support the sector as a whole.”

This is the second time TWAM has been invited to support the British Council with its Moving Museums initiative and on the recent visit staff delivered workshops in partnership with National Museums Scotland. The workshops gave museum staff from the Western Balkans the opportunity to create their own audience development plan using their advice and guidance. “Supporting other museums to grow and evolve has been very rewarding,” said Griffiths.

TWAM’s Digital Programmes Manager, John Coburn, has also been on his travels this month on behalf of the archives and museums where he has been sharing his experience of working on digital initiatives at the Museums and the Web conference in Los Angeles. The annual conference features advanced research and exemplary applications of digital practice for cultural, natural and scientific heritage. Coburn spoke to 800 delegates from across the world about Collections Dive featured as a case study as part of M+H Advisor’s In Focus Report on Digitising Collections last month. The Collections Dive is a user-centric collections interface created in partnership with Microsoft Research and Newcastle University and supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Coburn’s talk – I Don’t Know What I’m Looking For: Better understanding public usage and behaviours with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums online collections, discussed why it’s important to explore different interfaces such as the ‘casual’ Collections Dive.

TWAM has recently experienced successes with its commercial activities which has led Jon Walker, Enterprise Project Manager being invited to speak at the UK-China Museum Dialogue last month to explain how TWAM has increased income generation by introducing, amongst other initiatives, a new wedding programme.

So, as well as developing their gift shops – including an online retail outlet – and launching training and consultancy services, TWAM is expanding its range of commercial opportunities to host weddings at its venues to generate more income, which is having a very positive impact on the whole of the organisation. “Initiatives like this may seem obvious to us, but for colleagues working in museums elsewhere in the world, our experience and advice is extremely valuable,” says Walker.

His attendance at the event marked the first in a series of collaborations between cultural organisations in the UK and China covering games, fashion and cultural heritage as part of the 2016 China-UK Creative Dialogues.

These international visits continue a long-running programme by TWAM, which sees its staff engage in programmes and projects abroad as well as share their experiences at conferences both in the UK and internationally.

In January 2015 Kath Boodhai, Outreach Officer at TWAM spoke at one of the first Working Internationally Regional workshops at RAMM in Exeter. Entitled Meet the Neighbours: From Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Sarajevo, her talk epitomised TWAM’s philosophy of ‘sharing expertise and understanding global perspectives in community engagement practice’.

Back to top

Main Image

Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes at TWAM, teaching at the Moving Museums workshops in Kosovo