On Oct 25th I attended a conference that was essentially a wrap up of the fabulous work done by teens within the Stories of the World project. Stories of the World was an initiative related to London 2012 Cultural Olympiad ‘Inspire a Generation’ which worked with young people in partnership with curators to ‘uncover objects that tell stories that resonate with their interests.’
Having attended Stories of the World at Houses of Parliament, I was well aware of the impact the project had on teens in museums. Belinda Li whom I met at MuseumNext has confirmed my belief that this project did work and these should not just be a ‘one off’.
The Young People’s conference was organized by the youth panel steering committee. It started off with a performance by several members of the panel who were sitting within the auditorium. The presentation provoked us to put them at the heart of decisions being made. It was powerful, forceful and effective. And incredibly moving.
There were several key items mentioned at this conference that struck me as a priority and exactly why Teens in Museums (and a manfiesto) was created.
Items from the Young People’s Conference:
Provide full access to collections. Don’t just provide access to what the curators think teens want. Give access to all the ‘behind the scenes’ and let them decide what project works best for them as a group. Consult on ALL levels.
Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate. If you want to work with an existing group (children in care, etc), let the people who work with them work with you. They know more and will help avoid pitfalls.
Don’t put me in a box. A quote from the youth panel. If you’re going to target them as a group, ASK them what they want. Find new ways to engage with young people.
Monetary considerations. There is ‘stiff competition’ for teen’s money. Cover travel and feed them. Don’t exclude due to them not being able to afford to attend. ‘Provide us with cake.’ ~ Youth panel member Miki
Don’t compromise but have boundaries. ‘The more responsibility you give them, the more they will work.’ Do not lighten the challenge assuming the group can’t handle it. Say yes instead of no. This goes for both the group AND the museum.
Don’t have one agenda. Let the outcomes be across the board (eg not just in education). Embed the model into all aspects of the museum. Also look at soft skills but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons!
Involve everyone from the Top to the bottom. Don’t let just one area be involved in the group. Directors to café staff should be involved if appropriate.
Youth Panels should be long term & not just to tick boxes. The teens/young people don’t want to be invited in just because it means venues get additional funding. They want to be invited in even when there is no funding. Let them brain storm fundraising ideas if need be.
Sing about achievements from the rooftops. Don’t assume people will know what great work is being done. Have a blog, social media channels and drop in flexibility to help spread the word. Word of Mouth is still your strongest advocate.
Things not mentioned within the conference but I feel is important to keep in mind:
Engage with the ones involved but extend a hand to those that aren’t. Reach outside the four walls to embrace those that might not feel they ‘fit in’ with the group or museums.
Teens in Museums project was started to address these issues – and to provide a portal for collaboration and sharing for young people internationally. A manifesto was created from teens for teens. We are not trying to tell people what or how to run programs – we want to celebrate those that are doing great work and help connect people who are doing the same.
It’s about sharing. It’s about believing.
Invest in us, we are the future. – Feed me curiosity, inspire me! ~Youth Panel
Please feel free to email me if you would like to know more about Teens in Museums.