The South West Fed is an independent membership organisation that aims to:
- Demonstrate the strength and breadth of heritage in the South West;
- Connect people together for the benefit of organisations and their audiences;
- Inspire those working in and for heritage in the South West to deliver to the highest standards.
Our annual conference is one of the opportunities we create to deliver on these aims. For the last three years, we’ve been fortunate to be hosted by, and work in partnership with, the University of Exeter, where the facilities allow us to deliver a conference that raises the bar and meets our aspiration to be the leading heritage sector event in the region. The sun shining each time we’ve been there helps too!
We strive to hit a sweet spot with our conference, which is serving a regional sector where 30% of museums are entirely volunteer run. To hit that spot, we want delegates to be both inspired and to take away practical examples to help their organisations or practice. We also want to ensure that the opportunities to network are relaxed and varied, with a range of delegates from students to senior professionals.
2018 was the first year we’ve put out a call for papers, and we were delighted with the variety of responses to the theme of ‘Visits and Collections’. A stand-out element was the contribution from students and researchers such as Rosalind Mearns (on dress up installations) or Dr Andrew Rudd and curator Holly Morgenroth (on the Cresswell collection at RAMM, which brilliantly complemented presentations from those working on the frontline, such as keynote Helen Bonser Wilton, CEO of the Mary Rose Trust, or the trials and tribulations of delivering a family-friendly museum by Aerospace Bristol.
Break-out rooms were used to get hands-on in workshops, including how to pack a crisp courtesy of Wiltshire Council Conservation and Museum Advisory Service!
The networking opportunities were buzzing with delegates’ conversations about what had inspired them, surrounded by our valued corporate members’ trade stands and a display about the Cresswell collection.
Next year, we continue our collaboration with the University by holding the conference at the Penryn campus, in partnership with Cornwall Museums Partnership. The theme is ‘Inspiring Audiences Home and Away’ – and if that inspires you to think about submitting a paper, then look out for the call in November this year!
Written by Anna Bryant, MA, AMA
Anna has worked in and for museums of all shapes and sizes across curatorial, interpretation, audience development and marketing roles during the last 18 years. She was Chair of the South West Fed from 2016-18 and currently works for Volunteer Makers.