How should heritage decisions be made?

Connect: Cross boundaires and Collaborate

Connect

Find people who share your passions and interests – and create networks of decision makers, professionals, activists and communities.

It’s very easy to get into a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality. If you are outside, the boundaries of institutions and organisations are never easy to breach. It can feel like an anonymous ‘they’ make decisions on your behalf and a long way away from you. Indeed, this can also be felt when working inside organisations and sometimes hierarchy and structure can limit your horizons.

Our research has shown that these boundaries can be breached – and powerful connections can be forged. Actively seek out people who share your interests; let go a little of your own preconceptions; try to find common ground. We’ve thought of this as creating a ‘coalition of the willing’, ‘humanizing decision makers’ and as the ‘I’ in institution.

Richard Brigham, York Past and Present

We’ve found that networking works. There’s like this magic path. You need to find one person and then they introduce you to their friends. There are two types of people in the council/organisations. The ones that want to work with people and want change; and those that don’t. The key is find those that do want change and then they usually know other people who do too.

Rachael Turner, Manchester Digital Laboratory

Finding people who want to work with each other is not difficult. Finding people to work together across different sectors, from different points of view is an altogether harder proposition. It takes time to develop networks, and trust – especially with a large – and (by design) relatively disparate community, such as the one we have at MadLab. Our network encompasses city leaders, individuals in need from some of the most deprived areas in the UK, informal trade bodies, NGOs and community campaigners.

Language is key. Different communities within our community naturally speak different languages. MadLab finds itself in a unique position as an arbiter, a connection point, between the arts, science and technology; and between communities/ individuals and the resources they might need – be that a physical thing (a camera, a 3D printer), or access to an expert for advice. We can draw on our organisational resources to assist others. We can provide space, resources and tools to individuals to mobilise themselves more effectively.

Where is heritage in this? The answer is that it lives (or dies) on the same established (or nascent) networks.

Tim Boon, Science Museum

I had a slow ‘lightbulb moment’ in the co-collecting project. In Oramics to Electronica, the previous collaborative electronic music project, I had stayed on the museum side of the museum-participant divide. There mine had been a role something like MC. In the co-collecting project by contrast I became much more of an equal in the group. Sure, I was still ‘the man from the Museum’, but the alchemy of the process enabled me to become co-music geek with the others. By the time John, Dave and Martin offered to organise the synth bingo session, a public event we divised, it really was, I think, a participation of people with equal input and status. The implications for curatorship could be profound.

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