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  • Playful public engagement: knowledge sharing between England and Australia

    Posted on July 31, 2019

    In April, INTO’s small grants programme supported Anita Stevens and Ruth Lewis to travel from the UK to Austrlia, in order to foster collaboration between their respective National Trusts.

    Playful Museums banner

    Ruth is a Visitor Experience Consultant, whilst Anita is a Learning and Engagement Manager. They travelled to Sydney to represent their Trust at the international Museums conference: MuseumsNext on the topic of playful museums; and to meet colleagues from NT New South Wales, in particular the General Manager at Old Government House.

    At MuseumsNext, they used examples from their home National Trust to advocate for playful museum principles and emphasise that they are transferable across a range of environments. This will well received by the Australian audience, and Ruth and Anita emphasised how speaking at the conference gave them valuable insight for developing their approach for working with families. The British pair were delighted to be able to meet such a range of people working in the same sector, with a huge range of valuable knowledge bought back after exchange with INTO colleagues from across Australia and beyond.

    Old Government House, Sydney, CC.

    The conference was also a source of inspiration for the visitors. Anita and Ruth reported that, ‘understanding playful approaches from across the world gave us an insight into the challenges we have in common, but also inspired us as we heard how those issues were being addressed e.g. how to work within limited budgets and how to engage with new audiences and local communities with art, including contemporary art.’ They plan to take this learning back with them to their work in the UK.

    At Old Government House, Anita and Ruth worked with the General Manager to look at how learning from UK properties could be a model for new ways of working in Sydney, from opening hours to public consultation. NT NSW has recently appointed a new site manager at Old Government House, meaning that there was fertile ground for discussions and eventually recommendations. Ultimately, Ruth and Anita suggested that the site should consider developing a spirit of place strategy, seeking opportunities to exchange best practice with the local Sydney Living Museums and trialling a mixture of free flow and guided tours for visitors. Anita and Ruth finished off their time in Australia with a trip to a garden property in the Blue Mountains to look at potential for future collaboration, not  bad for two weeks’ work!

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