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World Stories South East

Museum Name

World Stories South East is a partnership of 10 museums:
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery; Bexhill Museum; SeaCity Museum, Southampton; Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, Reading University; Explosion!; Watts Gallery; Reading Museum; Museum of English Rural Life; St Barbe’s Museum & Art Gallery and Haslemere Museum, and is supported by Royal Pavilion & Museums Brighton.

Museum Contact

Sonia Rasbery, project coordinator
Helen Mears, Keeper of World Art

Title of Project

World Stories South East: museums working with young people aged 14-25


November 2012 – March 2013

What was the Project aim/s?

Strategic Support Funding: To support up to 10 museums from across the South East to each develop a project that explored collaborative working with young people aged 14-25 years old to help them develop work-based skills.

What was the impact of the project?

A key element of the project was the programme of three training workshops to develop partner museum’s skills in working with young people. It was a requirement of the programme that partner museums to attend all training. The aim of this was to build and develop from an early stage strong networking relationships between partner museums. The result of this is the launch of the South East Network of Museums Working Young People.

All of the museums involved in the project have gained skills and expertise by working on their individual projects. Within the evaluation each partner museum was asked to identify three key lessons learnt and their main achievements. Within these sections museum staff identified the development of knowledge about young people, the development of skills and an increased in understanding about young people as some of the key lessons learnt. Overall the partner museums demonstrated an increased expertise in working with young people.

What went well and what didn’t go well?

ACE Strategic Funding supported the World Stories South East (phase 2) and this dictated the timescale, from September 2012 to April 2013.

There was recognition while developing this phase of the project that the timescale would be challenging and this was taken into consideration when setting the parameters for the individual projects. An emphasis was placed on the projects demonstrating the process of engagement with young people, less importance was placed on a outcome rather it was about the museums embedding practice into their organisations. 

Taking this approach was successful as a majority of the projects were completed on time.

The role of the project coordinator has been fundamental to the successful implementation and delivery of the project. It was recognised by the partner organisations that there was no capacity within any of their museums to undertake the coordination of a project of this scale, and that the relevant skills and expertise are also required to lead on the coordination of a project of this scale. The World Stories South East steering group stated ‘While we hope that, in time, this youth engagement work will become embedded and self-sustaining, as this report clearly shows, we are some way off this yet and partners will continue to need the support of an external project coordinator for some time.’

The 10 partner museums each delivered a programme for young people. They worked with over 189 young people not in employment and education, from youth groups, secondary schools, museum youth forums, and universities. During the projects the young people worked with a range of staff from the museums including curators, learning and marketing staff, and other professionals such as artists, film makers, horticulturists, photographers to develop programmes for young people at museums.

The museums delivered a range of projects including working with young people on the development of exhibitions and related app trials, consulted with them on the development of youth forums and youth engagement strategies, work placements and volunteer programmes resulting in a variety of activities, events, and performances that reached over 10,000 visitors.

Top Tips

Each partner museum was required to complete an evaluation, as part of this they were asked to reflect on what were the 3 key lessons they learnt from taking part in the project. The following is a selection of some of the lessons they learnt:

  • Time to develop relationships with young people & with partners. Working with young people requires a lot of time especially when you want them to take ownership of a project. To create links with the partner organisations such as Reading Starting Point, Job Centre and the Probation Service.
  • Work with experienced youth engagement professionals.  They understand the type of activities that would engage the group and maintained consistency and discipline, if required. 
  • Don’t stereotype young people or be put off by their apparently indifferent attitude.  They may have been self-conscious and lacking confidence in their opinions, but they showed surprising insights and sensitivities. 
  • Partner organisations that already have links with the target audiences are crucial to recruitment. We soon realised that each organisation has a different set of aims and goals and we would need to fit in with their objectives, along with their different working practices. We learnt that forward planning and working with the partner organisations to agree on joint aims was the best route to recruiting our target audience.
  • There is a wealth of young people within the local community willing to volunteer within a heritage or charity organisation. These young people may not have had the opportunity in the past to be part of an organisation such as MERL and were unaware of the resources and opportunities available to them. We intend to continue to recruit from the NEET community after the completion of the project.
  • Maintaining open lines of communication with our partner organisation – Fairbridge, Prince’s Trust, was very important to the success of the project. When we had gaps in communication there was a direct correlation with a break down in information. The result of which was the young people not being fully prepared for their placements. 
  • Planning is imperative: I firmly believe this has been one of the most successful projects I have worked on to date because we actually carried out all the planning we had been planning!!!

What are your plans for the future?

Each of the partner museums implemented a project within their own organisation:

  • Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology – Ure Discovery developed a student panel drawn from Reading University students panel of students to work with young people from local schools, a digital animator and iMuse (a volunteer-run charity developing accessibility communications technology) to produce a app trail.
  • For a small museum with limited staffing resources the use of a student panel and partners has proved a successful model.
  • Southampton Arts & Heritage –developed a structured work placement programme with supporting documentation that concentrated on weeklong placements linked to work skills and embedded the Explore/ Discover Arts Award in a taster capacity.
  • The Museum is interested in developing work-based learning at the museum and the World Stories project has provided staff with a further understanding of the issues.
  • Hastings Museum and Art Gallery – consulted with young people and created a film that records the young people’s feedback. It will be used to inform future planning at the museum, to further develop work with young people and to support funding applications.
  • Bexhill Museum – working in collaboration with young people from Dv8 (an organisation that specialising in delivering innovative training projects in creative and media for young people) on a learning programme of work (Performance Level 1 & Level 2) using the collections as an inspiration and starting point.
  • The World Stories work has provided the catalyst for Bexhill Museum to engage with young people outside of formal learning. The Museum is committed to working with young people and is working on a audience development policy and plan to embed this work into the forward planning of the museum.
  • Watts Gallery – worked with young people from areas of deprivation in Surrey to produce a film on the life of GF and Mary Watts for inclusion in the exhibitions at Watts Gallery. The project worked with a larger number of young people than expected due to high levels of interest in the project. The Learning Team at the Gallery worked with the young people on to developed skills related to filmmaking.
  • Museum of English Rural Life – created a team of 10 young volunteers aged between 16-25 who fall into the Not in Employment Education or Training category (NEETs), to volunteer on specially created roles within the volunteering programme at the Museum of English Rural Life – including film making, photography, costume design and production, gardening, administration and tour guiding. Of these all have signed up to the wider MERL volunteer programme with about half continuing the roles started under the scheme and the rest moving on to new roles.
  • Haslemere Museum – worked with in consultation with the young people from their HYPE group (young person’s museum group) to develop a youth engagement strategy.
  • St Barbe’s Museum and Art Gallery – worked with a specialist consultancy to develop a youth forum for young people at the Gallery. The forum was developed in consultation with the young people and their views and opinions taken into consideration. One of the aims of the Gallery was to set-up a youth forum as a way of building a sustainable relationship with a local secondary school that had been hard to engage previously and also to use the forum once set up as a method of consultation for the re-development plans.
  • Explosion! – worked with three groups of young people to pilot a way of engaging a younger audience with the firearms collection at the museum, and to explore building links with learning providers in the Gosport area. Using a variety of multimedia the young people worked alongside staff and volunteers at the museum to produce creative responses to the collections. The project has resulted in a network of contacts being made across the Gosport area, and the Learning Manager has benefitted from an increased understanding of working with young people. The project has had a positive impact and will be used to inform the development of the learning programme at the Museum, as well as continuing to engage with the young people involved in the project.

The partner museums recognised the networking and skills-sharing opportunities and benefits that being part of World Stories South East offered. To build on this informal network and develop to other museums in the South East World Stories South East has received funding from the SE Bridge to undertake the research and development of a network of museums in the South East working with young people. The research from this and the evaluation carried out as part of the World Stories project will inform the next funding application.

Further funding is being sought as it is recognised from the evaluation that there is a further need to support museums working with young people and to further embed this work into museums.

Read the full World Stories Final Report here. [link to WorldStoriesFinalReport2013.pdf doc in the resources pages]

Overall Cost of Project