Yesterday saw over 100 people from all over the UK come to Birmingham for something they weren’t event sure what it was.
But they came.
After signing in, everyone was asked to decorate a cupcake. Some did so with a nervous smile, others threw themselves into it. Why cupcakes? Because they make people talk to each other. Whether it was to say they felt stupid or asking the person next them to pass the frosting. It was an ice breaker that is not found in conferences … and Museum Camp was the opposite of conference.
Will Perrin – the fabulous MC who really help set the tone for the day – asked who knew what an unconference was or has been to one. Very few raised their hands. Will then asked who was here because they didn’t know what MuseumCamp was about and majority of hands shot up!
But that was ok – they still came.
MuseumCamp kicked off with everyone introducing themselves. I heard some mention they felt it was awkward at first but thanks to Will’s energy, everyone just threw themselves into the spirit of the introductions. Did we expect you to remember names? Of course not! But it did help some put faces to names they have emailed/ tweeted and it gave everyone a general feel for the diversity of backgrounds, projects and countries that were represented.
Everyone was then encouraged to pitch a session. Some hands shot up straight away and once the ‘shyer’ campers saw it wasn’t that scary we soon had a queue for people who had ideas to pitch! Then came the incredibly complicated part which I can only say a huge thank you to Alison Smith, Glyniss Powell and Rackel Cockett for managing to sort out the rooms and time slots. As you can see, it was not an easy task.
Once the visual was put up, Will explained that as it’s an unconference things CAN change and we’d reevaluate things during Lunch.
And as if we didn’t take them out of their comfort zone enough, it was then explained that once you’re in a session you’re allowed to leave and go to another if it’s not for you! No one will glare or whisper – they’d appreciate that the session wasn’t for you and you didn’t waste your time where it wasn’t best for you
Messing with their heads at this Unconference but people GOT IT.
How do I know? I ran the first session called Teens in Museums in the main meeting room (Gate House). About 15-20 minutes in, I saw a few people popping back into the room to see the session room numbers as they left the one they were in and wanted to go to another.
I wasn’t able to go to the second session as had to prepare the lunch. Again, keeping with the Unconference spirit, I decided to lay things out the opposite of what normally happens. You came in and you could get your plate and spork (yup, I went for sporks) then get your salads before your coffee or you could go to the opposite side of the room to get samosa, sandwiches or choose from one of the many cakes. There was no rhyme or reason to the lay out but guess what? Everyone GOT IT. Not at first – Campers still queue up to wait to go into the food area but then someone told them they didn’t have to – the could go to the other side of the table … not once did I tell them the ‘protocol’.
And again it caused people to think differently.
After lunch session three and four happened. With everyone now in the full Unconference spirit, discussions were varied and often running off topic but it didn’t matter – it was ALLOWED.
After afternoon break, Will had to leave so I took over to run the plenary which is basically the fancy way of saying Recap. Normally this is not done in an unconference but as I knew I wanted to know more about some of the sessions I had to miss, it was a safe bet to say others would feel the same. I was told to expect everyone to leave at this point as it was optional and people had trains to catch, etc.
Guess what? People stayed. And they shared. And they listened.
MuseumCamp was a day of thinking outside the box and asking small questions to big questions. You were allowed to dream big and think bigger. There were no guidelines, hierarchy or rules. Just blank rooms, general topic names and cake.
And lots and lots of conversations.
Did you attend? We’d love feedback. Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here.
THINGS WE WOULD LOVE TO KNOW:
- Why did you come?
- What did you like that you didn’t think you would?
- What would you change?
- Did you decorate a cupcake?
- What was your favorite session?
- What sessions did you attend?
- How was the lunch?
- How were the facilities?
- Would you attend MuseumCamp again?
- Any other comments?
The day would not have happened without Linda Spurdle’s vision and our fabulous sponsors (including Museumnext and Happy Museum).
Please note: There will be a video of the day made available soon!