Museum Socials get a starring role

At the end of 2016 we were approached by Edinburgh Napier University School of Arts & Creative Industries to ask if we could offer their students the chance to develop some practical experience in the field by taking part in work-based learning modules at National Museums Scotland.

Our Volunteers Co-ordinator, Deborah Wilson, asked staff across the organisation if they would like to submit a project brief aimed at 4th year students studying television, film and community media , where they could complete a short film or animation for us based on any theme or aspect of our work.

I submitted a proposal relating to the Museum Socials project, which is part of our Community Engagement services, and it was a good match for Laura Briggs, a 4th year student studying for a BA in Television.

We’ve been running the Museum Socials programme since October 2015, in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The programme offers a free, social activity for people living with dementia, their family, friends and care workers.

Museum Socials
A Museum Social session. Photo Ruth © Armstrong Photography.

At the National Museum of Scotland we host our Museum Socials on the third Friday of the month.  It’s an opportunity for people to learn more about a specific part of the collections and to join in either with some art and craft activities or singing. We anticipate around 20 people per session but sometimes have had up to 30!

I had already been thinking about commissioning someone to make a film about our Museum Socials, to show people what to expect when they come along.  When the enquiry from Napier came in, the timing was just right, and it also fitted with our wider support of student placements – we have hosted placements from the University of Newcastle, St Andrews University and University of Edinburgh Moray House (Community Education).

Designing a cup at a Museum Socials session.
Designing a mug at a Museum Socials session.

We hope that Laura’s film will encourage more people to try out a Social, by letting them see what actually happens at a session.  The Socials are not Dementia Cafés – we don’t address the subject of dementia at all. What we do is try to create a relaxed environment for people and to offer them an adult learning programme.  Each month, we welcome new people to our Socials as well as regulars who have been coming from the outset.  There is always room for new people and we hope that Laura’s film will reach out to them.

Laura explains:

“This semester I have been studying a variety of modules including community media, work based learning and television final project.

“I had no idea that the museums ran these Socials so it was very informative for me. It was a wonderful experience seeing how the Socials help people in need.

“It was great to meet with people creating something so positive for the community. The Socials not only provide a space to meet up and chat, but it is informative for the guests. Even though I was there to film, I felt like I learnt something! I also improved my interviewing skills when I got the chance to speak to participants.

“After my course comes to an end, I hope to get a job at a production company or go freelance. Gaining more placements with organisations in the coming months will hopefully allow me to make a decision about exactly what area I want to go into. I am recently back from California, where I spend three months teaching children about making short films. It was stressful at times, but highly rewarding to see the kids so happy with their finished films.”

Interested in coming along? You can find out more about our Museum Social sessions here.

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