What are the key things that heritage organisations should consider when planning to develop a new learning space, or refurbish an existing one?
We'll be addressing the subject of spaces for learning in a live chat on Thursday 29 October from 12.30-1.30pm.
To discuss this important topic, we’ll be joined by Georgina Pope, Head of Learning at south-east London’s Horniman Museum, and Lucy Jenner, Learning & Outreach Manager at Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft in East Sussex. This live chat coincides with the recent launch of Space for Learning: a new handbook for creating inspirational learning spaces, developed by Clore Duffield Foundation, HLF and other partners.
Please join us to ask your questions and share experiences on this theme, on anything from fundraising for a space; how a learning suite can increase the visibility of and support for the learning team; how technology can be harnessed; and – crucially! – how much storage is enough?*
(*Quick answer: no amount of storage is EVER enough…!)
Hello, and welcome to our seventh live chat in the Online Community.
Today we’ll be discussing space for learning, and I’m joined by special guests Georgina and Lucy, as well as my HLF colleagues John and Jo.
Before we get started, a little bit of housekeeping:
- We encourage everyone following along to ask questions at any time, but we will wait until the end of the chat, once we’ve got through our over-arching questions, to answer these.
- The screen will not automatically update as each comment is posted, so we would encourage you to refresh your screen every 5-10 minutes to see the latest posts. (Hit F5 on your keyboard to refresh)
Now, without further ado, I’ll let our guests introduce themselves.
Hi everyone, I’m Head of Learning at the Horniman Museum and Gardens.
I oversee the direction of the learning and volunteering programmes at the Horniman, lead strategic learning partnerships and contribute to interpretation strategies and the museum's integrated public programming.
Learning and Outreach Manager
I have a background in applied arts as a maker and an artist educator. I have worked in arts education for 8 years. Previously in a school as an art technician and then as an Education Officer promoting South Asian performance art. Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft is the first museum I have worked in as part of the permanent staff team. In my role as Learning and Outreach Manager, 1:
Programme the museums workshops and events and develop relationships with local and national artists to run this.
- Work with pre-schools to universities.
- Co-ordinate a team of workshop volunteers.
- Create trails and learning interpretation for the museum.
- Organise the hire of the museum spaces.
- Develop and programme outreach work.
...and I'm John McMahon, HLF's Policy Advisor for Learning and Volunteering, and I've worked closely with our partners including CLore Duffield Foundation, Arts Council England, RIBA and the Royal Horticultural Society on the development of the guidance.
Jo Reilly, HLF's Head of Learning & Participation, will also be joining us shortly!
I should also say, just to echo what's in the discussion description above, and to help frame what we're going to talk about -
We're here to discuss the development of learning spaces in heritage settings - both ones that have been newly developed/built, perhaps as part of a larger capital project, and also refreshing and refurbishing exisitng learning spaces.
We have a few different dedicated learning spaces at the Horniman - I'm happy to take questions about any of them. They are:
The Hands On Base gallery, a unique facilitated space displaying and storing the museum’s handling collection of c 3500 objects. The Hands On Base occupies part of a listed building and opened to the public in 2002, part of the HLF-funded Horniman Centenary Development. Both the space itself and the collection it houses are at the heart of our schools, family and community programmes.
Part of the same Centenary Development, the purpose-built Education Centre comprises two conjoined rooms with lino floors and folding furniture. They provide cloakroom space and lunch facilities for visiting schools, and outside schools use, learning and engagement sessions run term-time, in school holidays and on certain evenings.
The Music Gallery Performance Space, also part of the Centenary Development, is located at one end of the Horniman’s Music Gallery, separated by glass partition from the main gallery. It is used as a teaching space for school groups five days a week and by families and community groups after school and at weekends.
The Gardens Pavilion, funded by HLF Parks and People as part of the Horniman’s Gardens Unity project, is a multi-use building in the gardens. It opened in 2012 and accommodates Learning and engagement programmes three days a week and corporate events and venue hire four days a week. The space also plays host to community symposia, conferences and the Horniman’s external advisory panels (Access, Engagement).
Great, thank you all for being here today, it's great to have you on board!
And thanks very much John and Georgina for that additional overview of what we mean by 'space for learning'.
Right, let's get going - my first question for our guests today is:
What made you realise that you needed a new space?
This is my experience of working in a museum that has undergone a redevelopment, with a bit of background about the project.
I joined the museum team when hard hats and high vis jackets were still necessary to enter the site and was involved in the internal fit out of the Learning Space (now Clore Learning Space) but not in the planning of the redeveloped buildings as I joined the team only a year before the museum re-opened. The entire museum has been transformed in a major redevelopment costing £2.4 million. It is estimated that the Learning Space cost £150,000. In the redevelopment new buildings have been cleverly designed to fit in-between old, linking a complicated series of buildings from different eras over a multi-level site. The original museum buildings; a Victorian school and headmasters’ cottage have been modernised and now house the main gallery, a small temporary gallery, a print gallery the parlour and reading room. The new buildings house a collection store, an introduction space and a link building with an accessible lift. The site has also expanded into old buildings; an 18th century grade II listed cart lodge that has been reinvigorated and now houses the new entrance, shop and café.
The Clore Learning Space (CLS) was originally a Victorian classroom and was later converted into a cottage which adjoined the museum but wasn’t part of it. During the redevelopment all interior walls of the cottage were dismantled and a false ceiling was removed exposing the roof joists which were replaced and left exposed to increase the height of the space. The roof was entirely stripped and retiled. The floor was reinforced and replaced, windows were replaced by double glass doors which open out onto the garden. An exterior wall was re-rendered, a new door made into the museum, new toilets, office and a small kitchen. The CLS takes up a significant area (I’m not sure what the % is) of the entire museum footprint.
Prior to the development, at the same time as staffing restructuring (the appointment of an assistant curator with particular expertise in learning), the museum initiated a review of its outdated, unfocussed offer and developed an informal and formal programme of learning to ascertain need and audiences, as well as developing a more evident learning presence at the museum. This research underpinned the space needed and activities that the museum would offer alongside the refined narrative that the museum was to offer post redevelopment.
Before the redevelopment workshops had to take place in the main galleries or external sites had to be hired at a cost. When we used the gallery for events this had to be before or after the museum open or on the one day of the week the museum was closed. This meant objects were moved repeatedly to accommodate workshops, the number of people who could engage with the programme was severely restricted as was the variety of workshops and events that could be run at the museum. For example we couldn’t have accommodated a full class size of 30 children or used the variety of equipment we now use because there was nowhere to store the equipment or space to run more hands on workshops.
The learning programme was also not accessible to all because of the outdated buildings and design of the spaces. The new Clore Learning Space is now fully accessible with indoor toilets! The space is flexible, inviting and large which means that we can now work with everybody.
Hi, I'll talk about our newest space, the Gardens Pavilion...
The Horniman’s Parks for People-funded Gardens Unity project was designed to physically and intellectually unite the museum with the 16.5 acre Gardens surrounding it. A bit of background - the project made routes through the gardens newly accessible, refurbished historic garden structures like the Bandstand, created and interpreted new displays of planting that make links with the collections inside the museum, and redeveloped our Animal Walk (alpacas, goats, sheep, guineapigs…).
We realised we needed a new Learning space for visitors in which different types of activity were possible – activities that would encourage visitors to make connections between the natural world, their own lives and the collections in the museum. Existing spaces couldn’t provide for some of the things we were imagining - sessions involving wet “messy” garden material (which don’t mix with museum collections), sessions that involved both outdoor and indoor activities, mixed media art and craft, symposia and conferences with reliable AV.