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Reforms needed to ensure Scots museums remain relevant to young people

This news post is 8 months old

Charity project aimed to ensure 14 to 21-year-olds were included and heard within museums and their views represented

Major reforms are needed to make museums more accessible, inclusive and relevant to young people, a new report has said.

The Living Museums project, delivered by the charity Children in Scotland from June 2020 - December 2021, aimed to ensure that 14 to 21-year-olds were included and heard within museums and that their views and experiences were represented.

Recommendations made in the project’s final report, published on Thursday, address changes required to better recognise young people’s right to participate fully in cultural life. 

The proposals would also seek to improve staff training on participation and strengthen collaboration to make museum content more appealing for younger audiences.

The suggested changes include funding bodies in the heritage sector continuing to provide opportunities for museums to engage with young people on projects that are led directly by them, and allow them to share their views and experiences. 

A training and development package should be rolled out by national heritage and culture organisations to support engagement and co-design work in museums and heritage settings, the report said. 

The report’s author and project lead Chris Ross, senior policy officer at Children in Scotland, said: “Living Museums has shown routes for engaging young people and highlighted that co-design approaches can support a sustainable future by engaging new audiences and creating links that will last beyond the life of the project.

“However, commitments to changing approaches are needed. Participation of communities needs to be at the heart of future strategic planning in the sector, such as that currently being conducted by Museums and Galleries Scotland.  

“There needs to be a package of training rolled out to support staff within and across the sector to develop their knowledge and understanding of participation and engagement. Responsibility for participation and engagement also needs to be embedded within senior roles to ensure that it is promoted.”  

The authors also said museums should be supported to develop an advisory group or board so young people can feed into their ongoing work, and called for the sector to prioritise high-quality, ongoing engagement with under-21s. 

Under the proposals, museums would be encouraged to undertake Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments on their work to ensure they are embedding children’s rights in their work, as well as establishing co-design projects with children and actively recruiting staff with a community engagement background.

While recognising that a lot of good practice already exists within the heritage sector in terms of engagement with young people, the report stresses that this must be strengthened.

The project worked across three different museums in Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Dumfries and Galloway, bringing together museum partners and youth work organisations in each of these three localities.

Groups of young people were recruited in the three project areas to engage with local partners and establish new ways of being involved in the sector. 

Mr Ross added: “There is a desire to take this work forward from our project partners and we look forward to seeing where that leads. However, it will also require systemic change to move to a place where museums are truly spaces for and by young people which they feel ownership of.

“As the project concludes, we’d like to thank our project partners, our funders – and particularly all the young people who took part.”



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