Course 2

Museum Essentials : Working with Collections

Free - Enroll now

About this course

Collections work is vital and our collections underpin all aspects of museums. In this course we will look at some of the ways in which we can use our collections to keep them relevant for the modern world and represent our audiences better.  

We hope by providing a mix of information, insights, exercises, resources and signposting you will be able to develop your confidence and competence around your own collections practice. 

Working with Collections supports the Public Engagement and Benefit and Stewardship of Collections Competencies in the Museums Associations Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA). For more information about the AMA please click here.

Dynamic Collections Practice

Museum collections evolve and change in their nature, rather than to remain static. This course will help you understand the importance of this how it can be achieved.

Contemporary Collecting

Contemporary Collecting is vital for a museum to remain relevant to society and it is a process that should be ongoing and involve audiences and communities. This course will help you understand some of the approaches to contemporary collecting.

Interpretation and Use

The objects themselves are only one aspect of a collection, the memories and stories an item can unlock from an individual or community is often the real value of the collection. This course will help you find your role in this process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to go through this course?

5-15 hours

Do you have to complete each lesson in order?

The course has been designed so that there are no mandatory lessons and the lessons can be completed in whichever order is most meaningful for you.

Do I have to complete all of the exercises?

The exercises have been developed to help you reflect, capture and focus your learning. In exactly the same way as the lessons none of the exercises are mandatory.

Is there an opportunity to discuss our learning with Museums Association staff?

The discussion area is not monitored, moderated or facilitated. If you want to talk to a member of the Museums Association about collections practice then email

Is there a course start date?

There isn't a course start date. This is an open course that you can start and finish whenever you want. As an individual Museums Association member you have full access to the content.

Where can I find more information about collections?

We have a range of resources available on our website

Is there an opportunity to discuss our learning with other learners?

We have a discussion area at the end of each lesson and this is a way to discuss the content, your reflections, the impacts on your professional practice as well as seeking insights and information from others.

Meet the expert

Sarah Briggs

Sarah is the collections development officer at the Museums Association, she has over a decade of experience working in collections management and has worked with a variety of collections types from archaeology to zoology.


Ben Bishop and 429 others have booked this class

David Nash

Nicola SIkora

Mike Tyler

Excellent and very accessible.

Dr Nadia Randle

Useful tools on participatory practice that I hadn't seen before. Good for those new to the sector who are looking for a brief summary of these areas and a place to start from to learn more.

John Rochester

A broad range of topics and points of view from museums across the British Isles, but they show how we all have a lot of work to do, even if that only starts out as a reflective exercise. The material has convinced me that there is a lot of work ahead but with the right frame of mind to make the collections a usable resource for all sorts of audiences then we are on the right track. Thanks.

Shannon Wilson

I liked that I was encouraged to reflect on topics at various points throughout the course so that I could think about how to apply what I had learnt in practice.

Clare Lehovsky

katherine Dowd

I found the videos very interesting and the highlighted articles. The little quizzes really helped reinforce my understanding.

Manuela Portales Sanfuentes

I really enjoyed it! I was expecting more about the objects themselves instead of reaching/educational strategies, but in the end it came up the be really helpful.


really informative, with plenty of information. Gained new knowledge.

Kate Fraser

As a museum volunteer just entering the museums sector, I found the course very useful in giving me a grounding in current issues surrounding working with collections

Margaux Wong

Nina Healey

Nicola Wilson

I particular found the section on participatory practice useful. I read the Power to the People framework when it was first launched and this course has encouraged me to revisit and use the framework. I'll definitely be encouraging my colleagues to sign up to this course :)

Mel Cookson-Carter

Good content, really useful for refreshing my knowledge of collections and great insights into peer practices.

Madeleine Howard


Karelle Bird

Great, informative, clear, inspiring

Marion McCrindle

I appreciate the links to professionals and articles as well as MA documents. I appreciate also the breadth of the role and the fact tat you can't include everything It would have been nice to have had a curator talk through how they organised an exhibitions - the issues arising and how these were overcome. Much of the existing programme would have fitted in with this too.

Hannah Baker

Lynsey Ford

Sophia Patel


Tina Pittock

I am at home like almost everyone else owing to Covid-19. I am having museum withdrawal symptoms and so have just taken this course. Well Done MA. Really inspiring and educational.

Rebecca Green

David Laws

Good grounding in Collections policy and workings. Filled in gaps for me and gave a lot of useful information.

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25 Lessons included in this course