On 26th April we welcomed 18 staff members and volunteers from the Courtauld National Programme’s eight partner organisations to take part in the first of our annual networking events.
The partners from across the UK, which include The Herbert, Ulster Museum, The Harris, Braintree District Museum, Ashton College, Greenfields Heritage Site, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and The Ferens, are at the heart of the National Programme (part of the larger Courtauld Connects project) collaborating with the Courtauld Gallery on exhibitions, oral history projects, volunteer activity and workshops with schools and colleges. A key aim of the national programme is to build relationships that allow for the sharing of ideas and experiences across a variety of cultural and educational partners, and the networking days are an essential part of developing these connections.
The activities during the day were highly interactive, with a focus on developing relationships, sharing best practice and discussion around two significant strands of the programme; engaging new audiences and communities, and engaging young people aged 14-25. The workshops included input from members of the gallery, public programmes and digitisation teams at the Courtauld and presentations from partners about their experiences with the programme so far. The team at the Harris shared their approach to engaging new audiences through a café at the former Courtaulds Ltd site; Anna Liesching from Ulster Museum introduced us to innovative event programming, such as feminist Wiki-edit-a-thons; and Sarah Way spoke about volunteer recruitment and retention in the Courtauld digitisation project. We also heard about a successful pilot run by our own public programmes team with Greenfields Heritage Site to engage secondary school students with their local heritage through drawing.
Held at the new Vernon Square campus, there was also an opportunity to introduce our partners to the work of our staff and students, through a tour of the conservation facilities and Resfest. We were able to speak to and observe the work of third year Conservation of Easel Paintings students and to learn more about how the department could support the partner’s own collections through student projects. In the evening, Robert Rose, Museums Manager of Braintree District Museum, presented on the legacy of the Courtauld family in the local area to a large and diverse audience at Resfest, while other partners were able to find out more about the work of the Research Forum and get to know each other better in an informal setting.
The ideas and enthusiasm generated by the event show how important the networking aspect of the programme is and over the next four years we will offer more formal and informal opportunities for our partners to share their expertise and learn from each other.