There’s been a bit of hoo-ha recently about a museum in England that chucked out two girls for the simple fact that they’re teenagers. As a result Dea Birkett, Director of Kids in Museums, has suggested in The Guardian that museums only love teenagers if they’re wearing school uniform and accompanied by a teacher.
I don’t know what actually happened at the museum in question – I tend to assume that newspapers exaggerate reality in order to sell more copies. Whatever the truth of the matter in England, here at MUSA we want to welcome all teenagers whether they’re in school uniform or not.
Not only would we welcome them, we’d actually love more teenagers to come. So much so that we’ve taken on a group of Youth Curators. Seven keen teens from the local area are currently planning a display for the museum’s Community Case. They’re doing everything a curator would usually do, from choosing the theme, selecting items for display from the museum’s stores, preparing interpretation, running events, planning the marketing campaign and installing the exhibition. All the while they’re learning new skills which will be useful to them in their future lives inside and outside of work, from graphic design and accessible writing to decision-making and conflict resolution.
In fact, this weekend the Youth Curators have been making a video to tell us what is and isn’t appealing about MUSA to their peers. As a result, we know what we can do to break down some of the barriers that stand in the way of the next generation engaging with their culture and heritage. Those involved are thrilled to be given a voice.
Why are we doing all this? Quite simply, because we want teenagers to be able to engage with the museum’s collections. Why? Because those collections are integral to their history and identity.
The University’s Museum Collections team look after a multitude of items that are deemed to be of National Significance, basically meaning that they’re Scotland’s Wonders. If they’re important to the nation’s heritage then everyone, including teenagers, have a right to know about them and benefit from them. We want them to know that the collections are for them and what better way to do that than by listening to their voice and giving them some control?
Our Youth Curators’ thoughts and work will help us do more to welcome teenagers with open arms.
To all teenagers I say simply this; you are most welcome at MUSA.
Over the coming weeks our Youth Curators will be posting their own thoughts about MUSA, the collections and the Youth Curators project on this blog, so watch this space!