The Living Worlds gallery at Manchester Museum
In a drive to connect with its local community and address poverty Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, has begun training 15 members of staff as social justice researchers as part of a pilot programme for the cultural sector.
It has joined forces with Local Matters, a research project led by Dr Carl Emery and Louisa Dawes from the University of Manchester, which advocates for a different response to addressing the needs of children and families living in poverty.
Through bringing place and the local context to the fore, the programme explores research-based alternatives to the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ model that dominates work on poverty, disadvantage and schooling.
Address understanding of inequality
Manchester Museum and Local Matters will work collaboratively to develop and deliver a cultural organisations’ pilot programme that addresses how poverty and disadvantage are understood and responded to within the museum and through its relationships and activities.
“Too often policy makers and practitioners see poverty as having a simple beginning, middle and end. It is viewed as something that can be fixed if we all just ‘do better’,” Dr Carl Emery, Research Fellow Disadvantage and Poverty at the University of Manchester, said.
“I am delighted to be launching this programme with the museum to use research to really explore what poverty looks like locally and how the museum and the university can respond to this through the needs of local people, local knowledge and resources.”
Large-scale research project
The museum will carry out a large-scale research project in Ardwick, one of its local communities, which has significant levels of inequality, poverty and depravation. Over the next 12 months staff will explore what is known about poverty, both locally and nationally, and apply this knowledge to make changes to museum practice and policy.
The programme is part of Manchester Museum’s ongoing transformation, which is not only increasing the museum’s capacity to showcase its collections but has also led to new collaborations with the people of Greater Manchester.
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It is part of Director, Esme Ward’s ambitious plans for the museum to become more inclusive and caring for the communities it serves.
“Our commitment to care is not limited to collections, it’s also about how museums care for people and their ideas, and how they build and care for relationships,” Ward said.
“This includes tackling inequalities. Local Matters is a unique programme that will see museum staff become locally embedded social justice researchers and develop a better understanding of our communities. The aim is for future decision-making at the museum to be done through the lens of social justice, poverty and disadvantage.”
About the author – Adrian Murphy
Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.