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On Monday 10th October, Salisbury Museum hosted a conference for the Wessex Museums Partnership. Wessex Museums is a partnership between five leading museums across Dorset and Wiltshire; these include the Poole Museum, Dorset County Museum, Russell Cotes Museum & Art Gallery, Wiltshire Museum, and ourselves. Nearly one hundred individuals, from a range of different backgrounds, attended the day-long event. It was brilliant to see so many people present at a conference that was all about working together; particularly in a time where heritage organisations are often struggling for financial support.

The day consisted of several talks from various speakers; Georgia Malin and Gracie Divall discussed partnerships with national museums in relation to the British Museum and Tate, respectively. Stephen Feeke, director of New Art Centre at Roche Court, described their experiences of partnerships with the Arts. Malcolm Burgin and Andy Worth spoke about their involvements community partnerships. The afternoon session comprised a summary of the Wessex Museums Partnership so far by Michael Spender, followed by a workshop break-out session. This session involved splitting into themed groups to discuss opportunities for partnership working. I joined the learning group – which highlighted some very useful points, including working together with universities. The day then concluded with a talk from keynote speaker, Tony Butler, and final thoughts from the day’s discussions.

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Gracie Divall speaking about partnerships with Tate (left), and keynote speaker Tony Butler

As someone who is just starting out their museum career, I found the conference very interesting and an incredibly valuable experience. It really emphasised to me the importance of networking and cooperation between different organisations in order to further the aims of individual associations. A personal highlight was Malcolm Burgin’s talk on charity Alive! (one of the leading practitioners in the UK of meaningful activity for older people in care), and how they work together with particular organisations. His words really inspired me to research further into ways to make the arts and heritage more accessible to those living in care. For me, Alive! was a brilliant example of how partnerships really can help engage a wider range of audiences with art and heritage – arguably one of the most important goals for all heritage organisations. It was a really enjoyable and useful day; I greatly look forward to seeing the Wessex Museums Partnership continue to expand in the next few years!

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Nicola Trowell (Aspire Trainee)

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