Museum Facilities Managers Forum: Previous Meetings
24th January 2017
The first meeting of 2017 was kindly hosted by Guildford Borough Council at the Elizabethan Guildhall on Guildford High Street. The former meeting hall and law court has been extended and adapted over the years, and in 2016 opened its doors to the public for the first time.
Customer Operations & Communications Manager Stuart Wingate shared insight into day-to-day operations managing such a prominent building as well as the council’s other historic sites. He also talked about their redevelopment plans to link the castle and museum sites and increase visitor numbers.
Stuart’s colleague Catriona Wilson brought to life the stories behind Guildford’s silver, kept under lock and key at the Guildhall, not often seen by the public.
Following the tour the group discussed projects and issues at their own organisations, including the increasing challenged faced by free-runners accessing historic sites.
“Thank you so much for including me in the excellent meeting yesterday. The forum is such an important way for people to exchange ideas, problems and advice.” Godalming Museum
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft
19th October 2016
21 delegates from 18 local museums gathered at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, in the foothills of the South Downs, for the fifth meeting of the Museum Facilities Managers Forum.
Each came prepared with details of a project they were investigating or implementing to share with the group and pick up ideas and find out others’ experiences. Topics discussed included; security measures; emergency procedures, LED lighting; admission charges and replacing Grade 1 listed toilets in a Grade 2 listed building!
Rebecca Drew, the museum’s General Manager, then led the group on a tour of site, providing background to its history and the 2012/13 renovation and giving insight into her day-to-day role managing the building and operations.
The museum was established in 1985 when two sisters bought the old village school house; the building still maintains many of its original features. In 2013/12 it underwent a £2.3 million redevelopment, around half funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The group saw how architects Adam Richards Architects looked to sensitively combined old with new and reflect the architecture and landscape of the village. They constructed two new buildings and refurbished a disused Cart Lodge, providing space for a shop, cafe, collection store and research room.
Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre
14th July 2016
Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre sits in a 36 acre former chalk quarry in the South Downs National Park.
Commencing with a trip on the open-top bus, the Museum Director and Site Services Manager led delegates on a tour of the site, which is dedicated to the industrial heritage of the South East. They discussed how in a rural location, everyday services require extra thought. Bad weather disrupts the power supply, waste and recycling collections are difficult to source and wastewater must be collected by tanker.
They also talked about the work of the 500 volunteers who help welcome visitors and preserve the museum’s collections. Visitor number are on the rise, with 12,000 expected over summer.
Delegates represented museums and galleries, large and small, from across Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex, including The Lightbox, Pallant House Gallery, Guildford Museum, The Mary Rose and Charleston – who are hosting the next meeting.
“I found the discussion very useful hearing other people’s views about various aspects of running a museum. I was also extremely impressed by the museum and the way it presented such a wide range of things to see.” Eastbourne Heritage Centre
Watts Gallery, near Guildford
28th April 2016
On a beautiful spring morning Watts Gallery hosted the third meeting of the Museum Facilities Managers Forum.
Estates Manager Nicholas Massey explained how through establishing an estates management system (with support from a Museum Development Grant) they have begun to realise efficiencies and costs savings. Security system services have been consolidated to one contractor for example and utility and telecoms contracts reviewed and renegotiated.
Nicholas led the group through the newly opened Watts Studio which sympathetically joins Limnerslease, George and Mary Watts former home which was built in 1891 for the artists to escape the smog of London.
Nicholas explained how managing new properties and their teething problems can sometimes be just as difficult as looking after buildings which have stood for over 100 years.
He discussed lifts, leaks, lighting sensors and warping woodwork, issues shared with the majority of the group who represented museums, galleries and historic houses across Sussex and Surrey.
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne
3rd February 2016
The second meeting of the Museum Facilities Managers Forum was kindly hosted by Towner in Eastbourne.
General Manager Niamh Pearce provided an introduction to the art gallery, explaining how in 2014 they moved from being part of Eastbourne Borough Council to become a charitable trust, presenting both challenges and opportunities.
On one hand for example their independent status opened new routes to funding. On the other hand they had to develop their own structures, policies and management systems without the resources of the council to fall back upon.
Niamh also spoke about the building construction and services, how they monitor energy consumption and use their building management system to identify opportunities for improvements and their recent first trial of LED lighting, including difficulties in encouraging it to ‘talk’ with their existing lighting management system.
Further details can be found in her presentation.
Niamh and her colleague, Duty and Venue Manager Simon Sherning, then led a behind-the-scenes tour, from the ground floor exhibition hall, through two floors of galleries to the
roof-top plant room.
Of the twenty four delegates attending, Nicola Walker, Head of Collection Care & Access at Manchester Museum and the Whitworth, had travelled the furthest.
The Whitworth has recently undergone a £15 million refurbishment and Nicola and explained how as part of this they have tried to turn the normal approach to lighting upside-down. Instead of artificially lighting dark rooms where the natural light has been shut out, they have designed their galleries to receive ample day light which they then reduce as needed using louvres, blinds and fritted glass. Her slides can also be viewed via the above link.
Royal Pavilion & Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
4th November 2015
The inaugural meeting of the Museum Facilities Managers Forum was kindly hosted by the Royal Pavilion & Museums Brighton & Hove.
Jim Deal, Historic Premises Officer, introduced their Sustainability Action Plan, including objectives to invest in energy and water efficient technologies, encourage employees to work in an environmentally responsible way and minimise waste from exhibitions by maximising reuse potential and using materials with a lower environmental impact.
Jim and his colleague Louise Brown, Facilities Manager at the Royal Pavilion & Museums, then gave forum members, who represented both independent and local authority led museums and galleries, a tour of site, including the energy centre where the boiler and chillers that heat and cool the Museum, Pavilion and Dome are housed, along with a back-up battery system which can provide three-hours emergency electricity, and the tunnel that allowed the Prince Regent to move from the Pavilion to the Dome out of the public eye.
During the facilitated discussion and networking lunch, forum members shared projects and challenges from their own site. Several were searching for high output LED display lighting, without a £300 price tag. Others were keen to improve disabled visitor experience and hear from peers who had had virtual tours created of the parts of their properties difficult to access or adapt due to their historic nature.
“I thought today’s management forum was excellent. It just goes to show that you can never stop learning. I certainly never expected the bigger organisations to be experiencing the same sort of problems as us much smaller ones.” Cuckfield Museum