Over twenty people were able to attend the Yorkshire Regional Day at The Mansion House in Doncaster on Saturday July 13th. The last time the Friends of Doncaster Museums hosted the Regional Meeting was over ten years ago, when the theme was how groups would need to adapt to an ageing population. This year, the theme was how Friends can successfully manage a continuous process of change as museums and galleries across the region face difficult challenges over coming years.
Many groups are being asked to take on new projects to ensure that the sites they support can remain sustainable. The meeting and the activities planned, enabled delegates to compare their approach to different aspects of their development. For example, one delegate identified the visitor comments book in the ‘Treasure House’ as one of the strengths of the gallery. The comments from visitors were very positive and reflected the value attached to the gallery by both the local community and visitors to the town. This was contrasted with another Gallery where few people left comments and there was a lack a feedback from the public. This initial identification of a ‘strength’ in one place which was a ‘weakness’ elsewhere marked the beginning of a detailed discussion about how the Friends could use this positive response from visitors as a tool to recruit new members.
This is one example of several themes which were addressed in often lively debate! The presence of Alex Walker, Chair of BAFM, who helped guide discussions, was much welcomed. Jean Knight, National Co-Ordinator, also helped facilitate events, as well as promoting the National Conference, due to be hosted by The Friends of Reading Museum in October.
Hosting the Regional Get-Together took a lot of planning and hard work by the team at The Friends of Doncaster Museums. However, the whole Committee felt that it was a worthwhile exercise. Perhaps the most important conclusion to come out of the day is the importance of sharing best practice. We all face challenges with fundraising or membership recruitment. Being able to share both successes and disappointments with other groups not only saves time and energy. It also inspires delegates to feel that their efforts are recognized by others with similar experiences.
Chair of The Friends of Doncaster Museums