Fresh ideas from museums around the globe in your inbox each week
Helen Charman is Director of Learning and National Programmes at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. A creative and cultural learning professional for over 25 years, her specialism is museum learning for the 21st century with a focus on design.
Her professional portfolio encompasses schools, universities, galleries, national museums, festival organizations, local government and charities. She was a founder member of the education team at Tate Modern (2000) and on the directorate team that mobilized the new Design Museum, London (2016) before joining the V&A in spring 2018. Currently projects involve leading the V&A’s capital project to transform the Museum of Childhood through a co-design approach from a museum of material history to a future-facing museum for design and creativity with and for young audiences and families.
She gained her professional Doctorate in Education and Masters’ in History of Art from the University of London, and Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Oxford University, also undertaking graduate studies at Rochester University, New York, USA in Comparative Arts. Whilst a teacher she took advantage of the summer breaks to volunteer on development education projects overseas focusing on art and literacy. She is a governor of Forest Hill School, London and on the Advisory Board for Chelsea Physik Garden, London.
Out with orthodoxies, In with innovation
Many of the orthodoxies of museum learning – most significantly, direct engagement with material culture – went out the window in the pandemic. This proved to be, somewhat counter-intuitively, incredibly liberating for the learning portfolio at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Underpinned by an innovation strategy and with our working practices transformed, we responded to the pandemic challenges of 20/21 with creativity and adaptability, pushing boundaries and giving ourselves permission to fail, fail fast, and iterate. We have learned an enormous amount and continue to be excited by the possibilities of digital museum learning. Given the vital importance of creativity has only been strengthened by the pandemic and the impact on young people’s creative education, this session shares two case studies of our digital pivot across national programmes for Schools: first through V&A Innovate, a digital-first design challenge for 11- 4 year olds and then through Virtual Classroom, workshops for primary and secondary pupils.