Museums Association Conference 2022: Q&A with Andrea Terrón

At the beginning of November, our Head of Gallery & Exhibits, Andrea Terrón, attended the Museums Association 2022 Conference in Edinburgh. The Museums Association UK is the only organization for museums in the four nations of the UK. They recognize the differences in context, culture, legislation, policy, and practice between the nations and strive for equitable treatment for all members in the UK.

This year’s conference explored how museums can create better places to live and work in a post-COVID world. To do this, museums need to tackle a number of crucial issues, including the climate crisis, racism and inequality, the legacy of empire, and well-being. The conference welcomed attendees from all over the world, including the Philippines, India, Romania, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Rwanda, Egypt, and Guatemala, to come together and share their knowledge.

Andrea returned with a wealth of new perspectives to bring to her role with the Bateman Foundation. Last week, we asked her some questions about her learnings from the conference and how she wants to use them to transform the Bateman Gallery into a space that is welcoming and relevant.

Q: What was the most interesting session you attended? 

Andrea: “The New World of Work” by Elaine Heumann Gurian. Elaine’s session created a framework for the realities that hit the United States after the pandemic, compared with the UK. She made an analysis about the vulnerable museum sector and the new demands that came up for skill workers in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Key Takeaways from the Session:
1. Criticism is not a public good. Everyone is trying. No one is perfect, and perfection is an unachievable destructive goal anyway.
2. Be a constant cheerleader to those around you and make a habit of giving compliments and showing appreciation, even when it makes you feel cheesy.
3. Work hard to squash your inner voice if it is prone to jealousy, envy, and comparisons.
4. Take the next road that feels right, rather than the one that is rationally appropriate but seems boring, redundant, or uninteresting.
5. Say yes to every adventure.
6. Do not plan too far ahead.
7. No matter how seemingly tangential, all experience will make sense to someone hiring you later, even if it does not make sense to you now.

Q: What is an important issue you learned about museums and galleries that you want the Bateman Gallery to tackle?

Andrea: We need to pay attention to carbon literacy and measuring our carbon footprint. We need to be aware of what is happening locally, nationally, and internationally, and think about how we can continue to be relevant with our building, in our gallery, and with our communities. It’s important that we are using our space to give out information and encourage interest in the environment and climate change. 

The key elements to implementing this in the gallery would be: responsible consumption, local impact, building the conversation, and the protection of heritage against climate change. We also need to improve our waste cycle.

Q: Were there any inspiring exhibits or spaces that you want the Bateman Gallery to have?

Andrea: I would love to have more programming inside the gallery and be a comfortable space for discussion. I saw several examples of self exploring areas inside the galleries, like the Tate Britain and British Museum. Here are some examples of opportunities for guests to engage with the art on display, from the Tate Britain in London.

The ability to change lighting and colour would also integrate other approaches for certain artwork. Security and accessibility is also present and crucial.

Q: What are some interesting trends in exhibition design?

Andrea: Accessible design, integrated design, and the use of lighting and space to create impact. Another important factor to consider when designing is to be aware of decolonization practices and ways to include different voices in our texts. People with different backgrounds can contribute to the script, not just the curators.

Q: What are good examples of dynamic, inclusive and sustainable partnerships?

Andrea: The beginning of a good partnership is recognizing that there is something that one can contribute that the other one needs, looking for contributions, and trusting the relationship.

One example is the government and public offices working together with galleries and museums to promote change, culture, and redirect funding for projects that will benefit everyone.

Q: What would you say were your favourite 3 sessions?

Andrea: Exhibition Design: Keep your Audience! This session explored how museums and galleries need to have information and exhibitions for different audiences, and how we need to prepare visually and conceptually for that diversity. Material can be interpreted differently according to someone’s background. We cannot impose interpretation. It has to be a co-curation—an effort between the institution, the audience, and local communities.

Climate Change in Museums: We need to be aware of our carbon footprint, who our providers are, and stay local. Every museum should have sustainability policies and be a source of carbon literacy. We need to take courses to learn the information, get trained, and then communicate it to our audience. Share the information with the other institutions we work with and create partnerships to support these processes. It includes all of us. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: Greater inclusivity in hiring practices opens doors to more equitable and diverse work environments where both businesses and employees can thrive. We must understand that having different backgrounds can be useful and we can be part of the change, starting with the hiring process and the role definitions. What is our community offering, what specialties can we have access to, and what do we need to look for?

Q: What were some interesting places you visited that inspired you? 

Andrea: I was fortunate to go to the National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the British Museum and Tate Britain in London.

The Exterior of the National Portrait Gallery
At the Welcome Reception in the National Museum of Scotland

I was also fortunate to visit Stonehenge, a National Heritage site in Sailsbury, UK.

Q: What do you feel was the most important thing you learned that you will take away from your time at the conference?

Andrea: I think that what I find inspiring is seeing change happen. We are all talking about inclusivity, the use of space and light, accessibility in exhibitions, adding present social issues to exhibitions, and sharing the truth of hard histories. We are all trying to decolonize, to offer accessible spaces and inclusive texts. Museums and galleries are changing, and that is a good thing. That inspires me to be better and keep on pushing.