Winners Announced at 2020 Cornwall Heritage Awards

 

Museums across Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly took part in an online celebration, where 10 museums celebrated success, at the Cornwall Heritage Awards which took place via Zoom on 21st October 2020.

The Awards were due to take place at the Royal Cornwall Showground in March but were rescheduled due to lockdown restrictions and held digitally for the first time. Over 100 attendees from Bude to the Isles of Scilly logged on to the event hosted by BBC Radio Cornwall’s Daphne Skinnard.

“This was an inspiring event, which was an honour to host.  It was excellent to recognise those who are working hard to preserve and showcase the unique heritage of Cornwall in places from the Isles of Scilly to Bude.  Congratulations One and All.” Daphne Skinnard, Assistant Editor BBC Radio Cornwall.

 

Winners

Mevagissey & District Museum won the Innovation Award for their Septimus ‘Some Seal’ Exhibition.

William Emmett of Newquay Heritage Museum picked up the One to Watch young volunteers’ category for his outstanding contribution to Newquay Heritage Archives & Museum’s digital channels.

PK Porthcurno and The Castle Heritage Centre, Bude, both triumphed with awards for their contribution to the Environment and Circular Economy, for their projects to improve natural biodiversity and their active promotion of environmental practise respectively.

Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum were victorious with an Award for Wellbeing for their numerous initiatives, as did Saltash Heritage for their innovative celebration of their volunteers.

The Mucker and Loco Restoration team from Geevor Tin Mine Museum secured the Heritage Heroes Award for their enthusiastic work to bring mining machinery back to working order.

The Tamar Protection Society won Best Festival, Event or Exhibition for their Tudor Afternoon at Mary Newman’s Cottage.

The Isles of Scilly Museum succeeded to win the Community Initiative Award for their Pop-Up Museum project in partnership with the Five Islands School.

Newquay Heritage Archive & Museum won the Judges’ Special Award for their consistent commitment and passion for Cornish Heritage across a range of projects and new initiatives.

 

The 202o Cornish Object of the Year, voted for by over 2500 public votes, was announced as the 15th century Mounted Horsemen Ridge Tiles from Padstow Museum, who are said to gallop around the Market Square when the clock strikes midnight.

Not only did the museums receive the accolade of winning the award, they were also presented with a cash prize of £1000 to help support any work or projects they wish to develop.

The Cornwall Heritage Awards have been developed to commend museums and heritage organisations’ achievements, celebrate what makes them so special and to give those unsung heroes their greatly deserved moment in the spotlight. The Awards have been organised by Cornwall Museums Partnership in collaboration with South West Museum Development, and were made possible by sponsorship from Cornwall Council, PH Media and Tevi Cornwall.

Cornwall Museum Development Officer, Stephanie Clemens, comments: “We were determined that the Heritage Awards could still go ahead this year to celebrate our heritage organisations and remind ourselves of all the wonderfully inspiring work they do as a community in Cornwall. This positivity shone through even in a virtual setting. We were delighted to welcome attendees from all over Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, as well as the rest of the country. The camaraderie and enthusiasm of the whole heritage community was a joy to experience.”

Heritage Awards 2020

It was always going to be a challenge, picking up an established awards ceremony in the beginning of a pandemic!

When I started the MDO role in July, the awards event had been postponed from March and rebooked for October at the Royal Cornwall Showground. We needed to make a decision quickly on whether we would go ahead, or try something else. As a team, we considered what an online version might be like and if we could produce it. Holding a physical event began to look too risky, so we decided to go for it virtually.  

The good news for me was that so much of the planning for the event had been done in time for March, and I had a huge amount of support from CMP’s Marketing and Impact Officer, Jody. We just needed to translate an in-person event online. 

My priority was to make the event feel celebratory and not like just another video meeting. Fortunately, we already had the wonderful and supportive Daphne Skinnard of BBC Radio Cornwall booked to host the event, and she could not have been more enthusiastic and accommodating about going online. 

The great thing about going online was being able to open up the existing guest list and be less restrictive on numbershaving made sure our Zoom account could cope. A lot of my prep time for the event was spent compiling and sending out information by email – thank you to everyone who forwarded on the information to their groups and came back to me with the information I needed. 

For me, an integral part of any celebration is food and drink. I started thinking about how we could do that remotely and goody bags seemed to be the answer. This was a great opportunity for me to test out the CMP environmental strategy of ‘vegan first, digital first, sustainable first,’ as well as shopping local. I found sweet and savory snacks, Cornish tea in a reusable teabag and a handmade soap as a little treat (well, we’re all washing our hands a lot at the moment).

The suppliers were all delightful and it was a joy to have lovely conversations with them about their products and what I was going to use them for. I definitely picked up some more sustainable shopping habits along the way. 

My next job was to make the presentation for the event look as visually appealing as possible and to make sure everyone got to see a taster of all the shortlisted nominees. Luckily, most applications were submitted with photographs and the ones that weren’t were quick to send me images when I asked. 

I also wanted to make a feature of the eight finalists for ‘Object of the Year’ – they were such an amazing group of objects I thought they deserved some airtime. So, I asked each organisation to make a short video explaining what the object is and why it is so special. At this point, I felt I might be straying into Eurovision postcard territory, but I really felt like video interludes would help keep the event flowing.

Producing videos was no mean feat when some museums were closed and when others were open with reduced staff and volunteers. I thought it was wonderful how different each video was. To me, they not only demonstrated the variety of amazing collections in Cornwall, but also the diversity and creativity of our heritage organisations and their staff and volunteers. 

I really enjoyed the event itself. Daphne’s warmth and genuine enthusiasm for heritage in Cornwall came across virtually and Jody’ thumbs were a blur as she live posted our winners and congratulations on Twitter. Everyone who accepted an award did a wonderful job and it was fantastic for all attendees to be able to see them and give a virtual round of applause. I wasn’t able to read the chat at the time, but the messages of congratulations and support were so lovely to browse through afterwards. And when everyone put their microphones on at the end, that was just fabulous. There were plenty of smiles and laughter and to me, that was the best it could have been. 

Highlights

The highlight of the event for me was that heritage organisations across the county from Bude to the Isles of Scilly were able to take part without any of the usual geographical barriers. Having students join us from the Five Islands Academy was the most wonderful thing and something that needs to be incorporated into future Heritage Awards when we return to ‘normal’. On the other hand, holding events virtually can be a barrier for some people. I tried to make sure all attendees were able to get online, offering practice sessions and a written help guide, and I am mindful to continue and increase this support in future. We made closed captioning available for the event, and I’m sure there is more we could do to make future Heritage Awards as inclusive as possible.  

I was blown away by the positive messages and feedback CMP received after the event. I think we did justice to the Awards and to all the incredible, inspiring people and projects across the whole of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. That said, I don’t think it really matters that much how I think it went – what is much more important is that everyone investing their time and effort in Cornish heritage feels that the Cornwall Heritage Awards are representative, reflective and celebratory of their achievements. I’m always open to feedback, especially now that I’m looking forward to the next awards! 

 

Steph Clemens, Museum Development Officer, CMP

CMP Remote Working Manifesto

 

Since the early days of CMP we’ve tried to embed the principles of Agile working at the charity. This means trying to reflect and learn as we go to continually improve our practice.

This year those reflections have inevitably involved remote working and the consequences of closing the office for a prolonged period of time. As we approached Lockdown 2.0, we gave some thought to what we’ve learned and how we’ve adapted. We found some useful insights in the RSA’s Making Remote Work Good Work.

We already use a range of digital tools like Slack and Trello to communicate within the team but on their own these tools aren’t enough (NB we use Clockify to track our hours and time spent on projects). These digital tools don’t address some of the other aspects of communication and care that we are better able to achieve when we’re in the office together.

Here’s the list we came up with. We’d love to hear your ideas too.

  1. No one can be productive 100% of the time. Remote working can be draining, and you might find your energy dips. Don’t worry. Take some time away from the laptop to do something which replenishes you – take a walk, do something creative, listen to some music or a podcastPlease share anything you find enjoyable with other colleagues on Slack.  
  2. Take a wellbeing break – If you think your mental health is suffering and you are feeling overwhelmed, please take some time outTalk to your line manager about taking some extra time off (in certain circumstances CMP can offer additional paid leave for those who need a wellbeing break). Please don’t wait until things get really bad before you discuss this with your line manager. 
  3. Work the hours that suit you – for example it’s fine to start earlier and finish earlier if you want to make sure you have some time outside when it is still light. 
  4. Keep an eye on your hours – Clockify can help you see if you are working too much. If a pattern of excessive hours is emerging, talk to your line manager about strategies to address this.
  5. Be a proactive communicator – show up to the Monday morning catch up if you can and be prepared to talk through your week ahead and flag up anything colleagues need to know.
  6. Be sociable: Tuesday and Thursday ‘afternoon tea’ catch ups are open to everyone and Wednesday morning Fun Palace sessions are where you can come and learn something new from a colleague or share your skills with your team members. These sessions are open to all but not compulsory. Try the ‘quiet zoom’ sessions if you’d like to reconnect with colleagues. 
  7. Find a ‘thought partner’, someone who is not your line manager, who you feel you can share and explore work issues or challenges with, and vice versa. Schedule time to speak to one another when issues or opportunities arise and another perspective would help.
  8. Refer to the Mind Working From Home Wellness Action Plan.
  9. Try the Yale University Wellness Course for further insights.  
  10. Do the 16 Personalities test and share it if you want to. Reflect on your communication style and that of your team members – what is it like to be on the receiving end of you? How do you like to give and receive feedback?
  11. Celebrate the small successes (as well as the big ones). You could keep a ‘done list’ instead of a ‘to do’ one, a simple technique to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Use the digital postcards to recognise others’ contributions and achievements.
  12. Take your holiday throughout the year including during lockdown 
  13. Assume everyone is doing their best (and read up on Brene Brown’s thoughts on this).

By the end of November 2020 we will have recruited 5 members of staff remotely. We’ve realised that it is hard for new starters to get to know the rest of the team and vice versa. To address this we have started to record and share short videos about ourselves to share some of the things we think people might naturally have learned about us if we’d be working in the same place. It’s been really great learning about colleagues and this is helping to make general communication easier.

 

UPDATE: Following the commencement of the third national lockdown in England, the whole CMP team are again working from home for the foreseeable future. For this reason, our Marketing Intern Natalie revived the CMP Remote Working Manifesto and ran a ‘Lockdown Work Life’ series on our social media channels, including wellness tips from the team. These have been added here for those who are interested!

 

Celine, Engagement Lead:

‘I’m taking my mandated exercise at dawn (see noble hound image above) and it’s been life-saving so far – makes the whole ft job + home-schooling marginally less painful!’

Natalie, Marketing Intern:

‘I’m making the most of the golden hour and getting up and out early to start the day off with some refreshing exercise, even if it is rather cold!’

Charlotte, Programmes Manager:

‘I’m making an effort to make a distinction between ‘work’ and ‘home’ so am getting changed at the end of the work day – simple but effective!’

 

Emmie, CEO:

‘I’m trying to do a daily commute – which involves going outside for the same amount of time I would have spent commuting at the beginning and end of the day.’

Jenna, Data and Insight Manager:

‘Getting the monkeys out for a runaround on the towans during our lunch breaks has been a massive saviour for us this week. Taking hot chocolate has been a good incentive for them too  And the view certainly helped too!!’

Karen, Office Manager:

‘In January 2020 I made a foray into crochet, taking classes at the Craft Collective in Redruth, Annelie asked at the first class why we were there?  Well I wanted to be able to make hats and within a few weeks I did indeed make my first hat. Along came Covid and Lockdown, I discovered the meditative quality of crochet, the constant physical repetition, counting and focus on the act of creating, stills my mind, and allows my body to relax.’

7 (Surprising) Health Benefits of Crocheting – An interesting article on the subject here.

Jody, Marketing and Impact Officer:

‘I’m making sure I spend at least 45mins a day outside, even in the rain, walking and exploring. I’ve found some wonderful mining trails right on my doorstep which I’d never have known were there. Oh, and I cuddle my dog Purdy at least 12 times a day!’

Cornwall Museums Partnership Appoints Four New Board Directors

Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) is thrilled to announce the appointment of four new Board Directors: Katharine Wills, Heather Coupland, Zoe Partington and Sarah Waite. CMP’s Board of Directors are responsible for ensuring the overall strategic direction of CMP and provide help, guidance, and advice on all aspects of the charity’s work. Appointments were made after an open recruitment process seeking candidates from diverse backgrounds who share CMP’s values of collaboration, innovation and inclusion. Combined, Katharine, Heather, Zoe and Sarah bring a wealth of new perspectives and knowledge to the CMP team and board.

 

“As CMP approaches the end of its sixth year, we are having to say goodbye to a number of trustees who have been with us since the start. This is a big milestone for any organisation and so we were delighted with the number and quality of applications we received. Whilst this made the process extremely challenging for the panel it was great to see how many people wanted to be part of our ambition to create positive social change with museums. Our values drive all our work and so we are very pleased to have been able to appoint four new trustees who share these values and I’m confident they will be a brilliant addition to our board.” Sarah Trethowan, as Chair of the HR Committee and Vice Chair of the Board

 

Katharine Wills joins the CMP board as a Plymouth University Professor in Smart Cities and Communities in the School of Art, Design and Architecture. Katharine also Co-Chair’s the School of Art, Design and Architecture Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities Ethics and Integrity Committee. With a magnitude of research interests including, but not limited to; rural communities, social deprivation and sustainability, Katharine will be a huge asset to CMP supporting the Rural Diversity Network and its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Heather Coupland; Management Accountant and Programme Manager for Access to Finance, has worked as a Business Coach & Finance Specialist with businesses throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Through this role, Heather has supported clients to access many different forms of funding. Heather has a working knowledge of the current grant funding pots, eligibility and the application processes. Heather’s extensive financial knowledge and experience will support CMP’s Finance and Audit Committee.

 

Zoe Partington, Creative Consultant and International Advisor for the cultural sector, is a Contemporary Visual Artist. Zoe uses her powerful installations to develop instinctive audio visual and tactile representations of Disabled people’s journeys and experiences through spaces. Zoe’s passion of inclusion strongly aligns with CMP’s purpose to create positive social change with museums.

 

Sarah Waite has recently taken a position as Assistant Curator at the Military Intelligence Museum, after finishing a 10-month Trainee Curator Programme position at Bodmin Keep Museum; a CMP programme funded by the John Ellerman Foundation and Cultivator. During Sarah’s time at Bodmin Keep, she worked on many projects that would diversify the museum displays and digital content as well as participated with a podcast Bodmin Keep produced which explored the Army’s LGBTQ+ history. Sarah’s appointment is a realisation of CMP’s commitment to providing board roles for young trustees and we are delighted to welcome her to the board.

 

 

About CMP

Cornwall Museums Partnership is an independent charitable incorporated organisation, formed in 2015 to provide leadership for Cornwall’s 70 museums; to support them, represent them and give them a voice. We are a sector-leading charity which is not afraid to think differently. Our values of collaboration, inclusivity and innovation inform everything we do.

Our ambition is to be recognised nationally and internationally as a pioneering model of collaborative leadership which promotes innovation and resilience in the museums’ sector and beyond. We want to shift the dial in terms of the impact and value museums create. By working in partnership with museums, we want to help them to use their collections effectively to foster happy, healthy and prosperous communities where heritage is valued and celebrated.

 

Press Release Issue Date: 18/11/2020

For more information, please contact:

Jody Woolcock, Marketing and Impact Officer

Cornwall Museums Partnership

jody@cornwallmuseumspartnership.org.uk

Funding Success – Art Fund support’s the Rural Diversity Network

Thanks to funding from Art Fund, Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) is excited to announce  a collaborative project with Black Voices Cornwall (BVC) and the Black British Museum (BBM), collecting the stories and experiences of Black people living in Cornwall.

The award of a £15,000 Professional Network Grant from Art Fund towards the Rural Diversity Network means CMP can expand its focus on diversity and inclusion, recently recognised as Outstanding, by Arts Council England, through its Creative Case for Diversity rating.

The project will document the experiences of Black people in Cornwall informing the work of local and national museums, ensuring representation and informing anti-racist practice.

“Education is one of the most powerful tools we can use to confront racism. Black Voices Cornwall absolutely recognise the value of history and the importance of teaching Black British History sensitively, appropriately and correctly, particularly here in Cornwall. It is important to us that people are re-educated about the lasting legacies throughout Black History.

We are excited and humbled to be working alongside Sandra Shakespeare on the Black British Museum Project which will be an absolute asset to both the residents and visitors of Cornwall. It is incredibly encouraging to see and hear funders also recognise the importance of this work, and this recognition shows not only support and belief in the project but also demonstrates some vital steps towards Cornwall becoming an Actively Anti-Racist County.” (BVC)

This project will also allow CMP to create resources to make decolonisation work more accessible to rural museums creating a better understanding of what decolonisation work means, what it looks like for our rural museums and most importantly, where to start.

“This is an opportunity to learn about the stories of diverse rural communities so we can better understand that their contributions are shaping our history. We are thrilled to be a part of this collaboration.“ Sandra Shakespeare (BBM)

Through the growth of the Rural Diversity Network, the aim will be to provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities for rural museums across the country to discuss decolonisation, and to raise the profile of decolonisation work in rural museums with national and international stakeholders.

 

Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) is a charity which exists to create positive social change with museums. In 2017 CMP launched the Rural Diversity Network, a network designed to promote diversity and inclusion in rural regions, provide a platform for artists and activists to share good practice and give voice to those who are seldom heard. Cultural policy around diversity has often been centered on the visible diversity of big cities. The Rural Diversity Network aims to inform national policy by exploring the diversity of rural regions and help cultural organisations to be more open and connected to the all people they exist to serve, not just a select few.

In October 2020 CMP received an Outstanding Rating for the Creative Case for Diversity from Arts Council England. The Creative Case for Diversity is the national standard for equality and diversity and challenges cultural organisations to involve a wide range of people, from every background, in the work they do.

This rating was primarily assessed on the activities being delivered by CMP’s National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) programme, in collaboration with seven museums across Cornwall (Wheal Martyn, Falmouth Art Gallery, Penlee House, Royal Cornwall Museum, PK Porthcurno, Bodmin Keep and the Museum of Cornish Life) where inclusive and accessible practice has already made an impact in enriching the cultural and museum sectors in Cornwall. Including:

  1. Using Cornwall’s diverse museum collections to inspire and explore diversity working with sector experts (including members of Museum Detox on diversifying practice, Dan Vo on ‘Queering the museum’, the Museum of Homelessness regarding rural diversity and The Happy Museum on programming with shared compassionate values) to develop skills in museum staff and volunteers.
  2. CMP has been spearheading work on an LGBTQIA+ trail encompassing the collections of museums and galleries across Cornwall, led by LGBTQIA+ museum staff. CMP supported Cornwall Pride in 2019, taking examples of Cornish collections with ‘queer histories’, supporting and celebrating the diverse staff and volunteers who contribute to our organisations. CMP has committed to support Cornwall Pride and the attendance of local museums.
  3. CMP and the NPO consortium museums have continued to work with Carefree, a local charity which supports care leavers and children in care. With the support of Cornwall Council, we have been able to expand the involvement of young people, creating a dedicated paid apprenticeship post to work between Carefree and the museum partners.
  4. Pool School Gallery, based in nearby Pool Academy, has become a close partner of CMP. The Engagement Lead sits on the Board and opportunities to support their ground-breaking approach of employing contemporary artists and using the Cornwall Schools Art Collection to engage young people, continue to be developed; for example, with organisations such as WILD Young Parents. CMP has convened work with WILD Young Parents (a Cornish charity which supports young parents and their children) with several museum/gallery partners. Working with artists and groups of young Mums, CMP was able to develop a detailed programme of interactive creative opportunities
  5. Fun Palaces continues to be a strategic partner for CMP. As half of the ambassadorial role for Cornwall, CMP’s Engagement Lead supports and develops a variety of organisations, including museums, creative partnerships and community-based arts organisations; to celebrate cultural democracy in creating and leading Fun Palaces across the Duchy.
  6. As a result of the wider NPO focus of ASD-friendly programming, Royal Cornwall Museum was able to host an exhibition of artwork by users of Spectrum ASD, Cornwall’s leading ASD-support service as part of the annual national Autism-awareness campaign. Coupled with RCM’s commitment to embedding ASD-inclusive work, including updated online resources and dedicated relaxed openings, led to a National Autistic Society Autism Friendly award.

 

About Art Fund

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. In response to Covid-19 Art Fund has made £2 million in adapted funding available to support museums through reopening and beyond, including Respond and Reimagine grants to help meet immediate need and reimagine future ways of working. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by the 159,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year. In a unique edition of the prize for 2020, Art Fund responded to the unprecedented challenges that all museums are facing by selecting five winners and increasing the prize money to £200,000. The winners are Aberdeen Art Gallery; Gairloch Museum; Science Museum; South London Gallery; and Towner Eastbourne

www.artfund.org

 

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences. We invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Following the Covid-19 crisis, the Arts Council developed a £160 million  Emergency Response Package, with nearly 90% coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support. We are also one of the bodies administering the Government’s unprecedented £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Funds.

www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19

Chronically Katie: my experience as a disabled Trainee Curator

I’m Katie Sawyer and I’m one of two Trainee Curators for 2020 at Bodmin Keep, Cornwall’s Army Museum. I also have Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is a long term neurological illness with no known cause or cure, that severely impacts energy along with several other symptoms. My aim with this blog is to highlight experiences from my traineeship and show how small adjustments in the workplace can make a massive difference for employees with disabilities.

L-R: Lizzy Broughton, Rachel Haddy, Sarah Waite, Katie Sawyer and Sian Powell - Trainee Curators 2020

L-R: Lizzy Broughton, Rachel Haddy, Sarah Waite, Katie Sawyer and Sian Powell – Trainee Curators 2020

 

Applying for the job

When I was offered an interview at Bodmin Keep I was given the option of a phone or video call, instead of travelling all the way to Cornwall to interview in person. This would have been hours each way by train for me! Although this option is now fairly standard because of Covid-19, in 2019 it was a big deal, as it meant I didn’t have to exhaust myself for an interview.

Applying for jobs when disabled can be very difficult as you become an amateur detective trying to decide if an organisation really wants to employ disabled people, or if they’re making empty statements. If an organisation claims that ‘disabled people are underrepresented in our workforce and we are especially interested in applications from this demographic’, investigate what they’ve actually done. For example you could check if they are Disability Confident, a work scheme with specific commitments. Can you find their workforce numbers online or have they hired anyone who is disabled? Has someone at the organisation written something online (like this blog!) so you know that they will make reasonable adjustments? This research can be exhausting but has saved me wasting time applying for non-accessible organisations in the past.

 

When to disclose?

Disclosure, which just means telling your employer of your disability, is a personal choice and you do not have to inform them. However, protections and assistance in the Equality Act 2010 are often dependent on the employer knowing, as they are often not legally obligated to help if they don’t know you are disabled.

Personally, I tend to disclose after the job offer, or sometimes during the interview, as if the employer starts to look worried you can explain exactly what your disability means along with adjustments they can easily make. You can also make sure they are not discriminating, as if they offer the job and then retract it when you disclose you are disabled, they might be breaking the Equality Act. Although this has not happened to me, I have experienced other discrimination which has made me wary of early disclosure. If you have specific access needs for your interview you may have to disclose early. These could be anything from regular breaks, a sign language interpreter or physical interventions such as ramps or lifts. Bodmin Keep has no lift, so is inaccessible to wheelchair users for example. Disability is a spectrum, and although they were able to make changes for me to work there, everyone’s access needs will be different.

 

Starting the job

As this was my first full time position since being diagnosed, I was worried that I would struggle. Thankfully Mary Godwin (Director at Bodmin Keep) and Verity Anthony (my line manager) were very supportive, and able to use their own knowledge of ME/CFS to understand my condition and adjustments needed.

I researched what adjustments other employees with ME/CFS had asked for, as I didn’t even know what I might need. This included things like: changing my working days to have a rest day mid-week, working at home on digital projects, adjusting my hours to start and end later, wearing headphones or sunglasses if needed (noise and light sensitivity symptoms can be really bad), given as much notice as possible if workload changes and review meetings. I emailed Mary with these suggestions and she simply replied, ‘yes all fine’. It was such a relief to know that I could ask for what I needed and be supported.

The absolute best adjustment by far was my nap spot. Verity set me up in the collections store attic in a big armchair with pillows and a duvet. I had a 20 minute nap every lunchtime, which might sound like a small thing, but it gave me enough energy to work full time. It was also a physical sign that Bodmin Keep were committed to making me feel welcome.

Verity Anthony, Visitor Experience and Collections Manager Bodmin Keep

Verity Anthony, Visitor Experience and Collections Manager Bodmin Keep, beside the nap chair.

 

Training

As part of the traineeship, we visited local museums in Cornwall as well as national ones in London. This was very tiring and there are adjustments that I learnt to ask for, such as a quiet room in each museum for me to rest in. National museums especially often have one for prayer or breastfeeding, however their websites often had very poor access information. The Natural History Museum for instance have a contemplation room, which I could not easily find on their map. Luckily, I was able to ask a helpful member of staff and used it to take breaks.

 

Natural History Museum map

Natural History Museum map

 

I would also recommend disclosing as early as possible to Claire English, the training co-ordinator. She has been really receptive to my access needs, especially as we’ve both gained a greater understanding of what that means practically. Again, if you are comfortable disclosing, I would ask Claire to advise the museum staff you will meet, or contact them yourself in advance. This way if you need to leave talks early, they won’t be concerned, and you’ll feel comfortable taking whatever breaks you need.

 

Training Lectures

 

As we all went online due to Covid-19, I continued to set boundaries for myself, for instance a five minute break for every hour on Zoom. Zoom fatigue plus chronic fatigue is the worst combination and I would not recommend it. This usually benefits others on the call too, as no one wants be to  on a video call for hours without a tea or toilet break. Also, the ability to have my video and audio off is a hugely helpful , as I can relax my brain and body and just focus on listening.

I can’t guarantee that the Trainee Curator programme will be accessible for every disability, but I hope that my experience has shown what adjustments can be made. As a disabled museum professional, you are a valued member of the workforce, with important skills and viewpoints that will make museums better.

 

-Katie Sawyer

 

Other resources that might be useful

Pippa Stacey lifeofpippa.co.uk – writer with ME/CFS with articles about working and studying with chronic illness

Museums Disability Collaborative Network – @museumDCN or www.musedcn.org.uk

@AXSChat – weekly social media chats on inclusion

Scope –  www.scope.org.uk— disability equality charity

ME Association – extensive ME/CFS resources

Astriid – www.astriid.org.uk/s/ – charity that helps people with long term conditions find work

Curating for Change – historyof.place/curating-for-change-deaf-and-disabled-people-leading-in-museums/ – new training programme for disabled museum professionals

Disability Rights UK – www.disabilityrightsuk.org – charity that campaigns for disabled equality