the state or condition of being a partner; participation; association; joint interest.
Very few people know what a Partnerships Officer actually does. Colleagues from across the sector look at me questioningly as I give them my card, Bank Managers don’t believe me when I explain my job and professional websites don’t recognise ‘partnerships’ as an area of expertise (and I just don’t speak of what my Gran actually tells people I do for a living!).
To be honest, I didn’t know what it was before I started at National Museums Scotland. And the helpful dictionary definition above doesn’t really shed much light on it.
To me, partnership day-to-day is about supporting colleagues across the museum sector to exchange collections, knowledge and skills. It is participation, association and joint interest – and benefitting from all of the above. On a personal level it’s a fascinating job, an overflowing inbox and learning something new every day.
The last few months have seen us organise events for 100+ people, bake cakes for Bulgarians, visit museum colleagues in Fife, South Lanarkshire and the Borders, clean a polar bear in preparation of the new museum opening, delve into the merits of the British Visa system, tweet a government minister and prepare for the new season of Knowledge Exchange courses, to name but a few.
And we’re very much in demand. ‘Partnerships’ is even more of a buzz-word in the museum world than ever before. If the recession has taught us nothing but this, it is that we are stronger together and can achieve more in partnership than we can alone. I’ve seen, and been part of, some of the most creative and interesting project bids I’ve heard of in recent years (see, for example, STICK OTNU). As we hear more sad news of museum colleagues moving on from posts, we find the knowledge of the collections goes with them, and our new National Programme and its associated partnership working is our approach to helping retain (and gain!) that collections knowledge through training, networks and advice.
The event for 100+ people was one of my proudest moments in the job so far. Colleagues from the length and breadth of the British Isles attended the launch of our new National Programme in the newly refurbished galleries of the National Museum of Scotland. This was a first for the department and, I have to admit, it was hugely gratifying to see it come together so well and see so many people get so much out of it. Many a useful contact was made that morning.
It was also a chance for us to launch our new National Programme strategy and tell the sector about some of the programmes that National Museums Scotland run that they could make the most of. The strategy is the culmination of months of consultation and research and we’re very proud of it. It feeds well into our new Knowledge Exchange programme, which is just about to start up again. My summer has mainly been about putting together these informal courses so I’m excited to see them in action – particularly the courses put together in response to colleagues from the museums forums. This year we’ll be visiting Dundee, Inverness and hosting museum professionals from Fife at our collections centre. We’re also finding out more about other groups of museum professionals and their collections – from university museums to recognised collections, via specialist networks in transport and technology, textiles and social history.
Jilly Burns (National Partnerships Manager) has been involved in representing National Museums Scotland at a UK level on a working group focussing on partnership working around Sharing Expertise, yet more evidence that it’s a fashionable job to be in! National Museums Scotland has been recognised as a bit of a leader in the field of knowledge and skills exchange so we’re delighted to be able to pass on our learning to our friends in the devolved nations and regions.
Much of what we do is about raising the profile of some of the fabulous work done by National Museums Scotland staff and volunteers to the external sector, and to some extent bringing the goings-on of the external sector to our National Museums Scotland colleagues as well. Its fun, its hard work and occasionally it requires a bit of juggling to keep it all together. But most of all it’s extremely fulfilling to see all the hard work you do make a huge difference in so many ways.
And Gran? It has nothing to do with dating agencies.