The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day Three - Conflict Between Principles, Theory and Practice in Museum Project Management

It was very nice to see Vicky presenting at Research Week, as I worked with her a lot last summer. This presentation was, in part, based upon some of the work that I was able to help her with at the Ashmolean, and it was great to get a different, more academic, perspective on it.

Vicky's research will look at the impact of projects on museums and their internal communities. Project management, as some of you may know, is an arduous and demanding task, and the way in which a significant project such as the Ashmolean redevelopment is managed is critical in the way the organisation responds to the changes it creates. Vicky will look at the techniques of project management, museum project processes such as evaluation, considering throughout the variety and difference of museums and their projects.

Her research will consider the existing museum staff and structures, how they are involved in project management and whether the culture of the museum changes throughout and after the implementation. From my limited experience, this is a really hard area of project management to cope with - for many people are averse to change, in some ways quite understandably so. Change is frightening, and people need to see that it can also be good. You also need to manage the relationships between existing staff, new staff, and staff brought in purely for set tasks and periods of time during the project, and you have to consider at each point how much each of them are invested in the work and the museum. Vicky must, she notes, also consider the role of funding, for those who are funding the project, be they the public, the government, or private individuals also have a stake in what happens.

In any project, a museum and its community changes - it cannot help but do so. Museums are incredibly diverse places, and they need their own versions of project management to consider their individuality (and their individuals!). These are not corporate projects, but projects with emotional and cultural importance and meaning. Knossos, the Ashmolean, and the Bahrain National Museum, which she will use as case studies, are hugely significant sites in their various locales and beyond, and the application of project management strategies to their development and change must be carefully considered.

Thank you, Vicky, for a great presentation! I'm hopeful for the future of museum projects if there are more like you out there!

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