It was important that these events were hosted – with the museum planners invited into libraries, churches, schools, working men’s clubs and many other venues – so that communities had ownership over the evolving project.
There was also the element that Barnsley had been involved in painful events that had never been properly explored or aired in a history space – in particular the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s and the loss of jobs and identity that followed. Many older people still didn’t want to talk about the events directly, but thought they should not be forgotten. Relatively contentious objects donated to the museum from this history eventually included a riot shield from the battle of Orgreave and a miner’s helmet with stickers from the picket line.
The process of turning this into Barnsley Museums vision and mission
“The vision becomes your guiding principle, it’s something that’s revisited all the time – understanding what we’re about and who we’re about”
The museum team now needed to take this mass of ideas and distil that into a vision. This in turn shaped what the team chose to accession from the generous offers of content, and for what reasons.
Some of the practical processes for refining the vision for the organisation included:
• A digital flipchart, (in this case Miroboards) which allowed large groups to share ideas – some of these flipcharts ended up with thousands of posts.
• 40 to 50 people joined roundtables, ranging from the ‘usual suspects’ of the council and heritage charities, to local businesses that would not have previously seen themselves as stakeholders in a town museum, and locals whose enthusiasm underpinned the project.
• Sessions asked very open-ended questions: what might go into different spaces, what should things should look like in five years’ time?
• There was also a process to help people think from a point of view other than their own. Participants picked a name out of a hat, then imagined that they were the leader of the council, a local poet or a parent of a five year old – and expressed what they would like to see from that perspective.
• Some parts of the discussion happened accidentally – an email thread emerged with about 50 people copied in, which was at first exasperating, but then an enlightening way for ideas to emerge. Retrospectively, the work may have benefited from taking place just before the age of social media, before SurveyMonkey and Facebook or Twitter offered tempting shortcuts. Meeting people in person and bringing them to the site garnered better responses – based on a deeper understanding of the project – than online work alone.
Through these processes, Barnsley Museums was able to collect a myriad of perspectives. From here, it refined complicated and sometimes contradictory ideas into a guiding principle. It finally managed to distil everything that it had heard into a single sentence.
Barnsley Museums Vision and Mission
“Barnsley museums will play a vital role in improving the quality of life of people across the Borough, now and in the future by sharing its amazing collections, buildings and green spaces”
Cascading from this is the mission statement – laying out what this means in practice. Because it is a living plan, it has changed continuously since it was first written.
• To care for and share the rich heritage of our Borough.
• To contribute significantly to the local economy and placemaking.
• To enhance people’s wellbeing.
• To provide venues, exhibitions and activities which are excellent, welcoming, inspirational, inclusive, diverse and innovative.
• To work with the residents of Barnsley, giving them a voice and creating programmes with people not for them.
• To raise aspirations and help build strong and cohesive communities.
• To co-develop and deliver empowering, inspirational learning opportunities for people of all ages.
• To look after and enhance our green heritage to support climate change and wellbeing opportunities.
• To always look to the future and become a self-sustaining service with ambitious yet achievable plans.
• To develop strong partnerships which help us deliver our vision.
• To support our workforce and community.