Museum Essentials : Working with Collections
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 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?
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 my learning with Museums Association staff?
If you want to talk to a member of the Museums Association about collections practice then email email@example.com
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 www.museumsassociation.org/collections
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
Excellent, broad and relevant topics covered. Enjoyable to work through with a mix of videos and downloadable documents
A good overview for me on some fundamental issues. I am new to the museums sector and now feel I could 'keep up' and maybe participate with confidence during team meetings, even if simply to ask questions or make suggestions.
Marisa and 1541 others have booked this class
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 :)
Good content, really useful for refreshing my knowledge of collections and great insights into peer practices.
Great, informative, clear, inspiring
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.
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.
Good grounding in Collections policy and workings. Filled in gaps for me and gave a lot of useful information.
A really interesting course with lots of useful information. I have a much clearer understanding working with collections now.
As an Interpretation Trainee with a heritage railway I learnt a lot about the museums industry and the role of museums and how that relates to heritage sites like the railway too.
I think this is an excellent introduction. As a new person to the sector I have learned a huge amount from this course but also come away with a lot of elements that I want to research further.
Catherine Elizabeth Grant
very constructive and useful
It would have been good to have more videos showing the insides of stores. I also would have liked more practical advice on handling objects. But very good - thanks!
Loved the course materials and way it helps to guide and develop idea's around where you want your collections to go and what they can be. The coverage of the basics of good collection development, management and care is really clear and concise too!
Thank you for putting together this course. I really enjoyed taking it, it built upon the knowledge that I have already gained and allowed me to reflect on previous roles and experiences. I feel a confidence moving forwards to engage with and implement the ideas and concepts surrounding how we work with and interpret our collections. I felt that some of the doing exercises were aimed too specifically at someone currently working within a hands on collections role. If these were broadened slightly they could be more applicable to a more diverse audience of people already working within the sector but also those looking to get into the sector or possibly between roles. A suggestion of regional networks to join for further engagement would also be welcome.
The course was incredibly helpful in opening up my thinking and understanding of collections. I feel it has pushed me to think about working more collaboratively with communities in developing future collecting. It may be helpful to add more interactive exercises within the course to really stretch your learning.
I'm a PhD researcher at Ulster University. I work in the area of narrative and interpretation in regards to collections in Ireland. I found this course so helpful and relevant to what I am working on, with great up to date and relevant references included.
Such an interesting and inspiring course, a great introduction to working with collections!
Good mix of media and learning styles. Personally preferred the reflective learning exercises. Good to hear perspectives from a range of professionals in the sector.
It was really inspirational, informative, and something new (I feel like nowadays people talk about museums in terms of exhibitions rather than collections). Thank you for providing that! :)
It was very helpful and thought provoking! Many thanks
I really enjoyed this course, a chance to reflect about what I already know and how I could develop.
This course was a great refresher for me- ideal to do during lockdown!
Excellent course that has really made me think about how to engage with our collections better and how to get the public involved. Would recommend for anyone working with or interested in working within the culture sector.
I found the course very useful, well paced and structured and it gave me lots of points for reflection. I am inspired to really embed what I have learnt into my practice.
It was an excellent course. I learnt a lot on this course and was even surprised by how much more it made think about collections work and what it details and how widespread it is. Areas of interest I developed more on was de-colonisation, interpretation and disposals (this last one is not a bad word!). Was well put together and engaging. Well paced and full of relevant documents and videos. Highly recommend this course.
Cláudia Sofia Marques Furtado
Very good course and it gives a good overview and detail on the different aspects of museum collections. As someone who has yet to start their career within the sector it was useful to get a greater understanding of the work that goes into collections and what is still left to achieve.
Very informative and covered a wide range of useful topics.
Really though provoking and interesting online course. I found the links to case studies, guidance and policy documents really helpful and found it was pitched at just the right level and got me thinking about my own work.
Miss Helen Reynolds
Enjoyed the course. Especially liked the piece about contemporary collecting as I think this is an important subject to consider especially now during these difficult times. It's vital to document what is going on in the present as this will become tomorrow's history.
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to challenge my knowledge of collections, how vital they are to the core of museum work and potentially the keys to open collections further to the communities that benefit them.
Really useful resource, thanks!
The course was brilliant. Lots of thought processes to think about the way we look at collections.
A great course that gave me new knowledge and challenged me to think about what I need to do to develop my knowledge of collections work further, thank you!
Really good mix of content. Museum collections is only a small part of my role so it's provided me with a refresher on collections practice. Great to do whilst in furlough, has kept my brain active!
Thank you for the refresher and the signposting to lots of useful and inspirational resources.
Well organised with excellent resources.
Great overview! Would welcome more reflective exercises earlier on to get maximum benefit to myself and my current role.
Thank you for this well structured course. Full of useful documents and voices from the sector.
An interesting and thought-provoking course, which is a good introduction or refresher on collections practices.
I thought the course was good and I like that it presented a range of material. It has been useful to work on my CPD whilst I am furloughed from my job as an assistant curator. I thought the interface could have been better, allowing easier navigation between sections.
Very useful for aspiring museum and heritage professionals!
Some overlap with working ethically. But a wealth of information. Video clips were interesting addition and about the right length. Maybe more from participatory groups.
Absolutely loved it, thank you. I've always been passionate abour how to bring the collection closer to the community and this course has helped to equip me with the skills to do this
The information in the course is really useful and relevant, really applicable. It has inspired me to use this knowledge to try to make a proposal to museums in Mexico, especially in the contemporary art museums which is where my expertise lies and where, I believe curatorial voices are stronger than other stakeholders. I would like this to change.
Really informative. A nice combination of exercises, resources and interviews to really make you think about how collections should be being used.
Very relevant and useful content supported by excellent resources, and with complimenting activities to fully engage with the material
Thank you for a thought provoking course. I found the decolonisation of collections elements particularly relevant and useful.
good length, interesting exercises to do and extremely apt contextually at the moment.
Great course. The font for the MA documents included was very hard to read so I had to give up on a couple but all the docs from other organisations were fine. Really interesting.
Sanaz Mazloumi Shomali
Very informative and easy to complete.
To me the course seemed to be a set of web-links rather than a course. I would have liked to see more self test questions and perhaps a dedicated area on the MS web-site as a forum where participants could interact
Excellent and thought provoking with a good mix of exercises and information
I enjoyed the course and thought it had a good balance of different types of exercise. Some of the documents were a bit long or had a lots of 'Museum jargon' in. In the videos (which seemed to have been filmed at an event?) there was quite a lot of background noise.
Really great and imformative course that applies a modern look on collections that is very relevant in todays working practices.
Milagros Perez Varela
I thought the course was excellent as an up-to-date assessment of how Museums can utilise to the full the potential of their collections and others held in the wider community. Some of the professional ethical issues in managing collections well, were very relevant and interesting
Sionyn Foulkes Jones
Very informative course that will aid me in volunteer activity at penmaenmawr museum.
Sarah Albany Parker
I have completed this course feeling encouraged, curious, and accomplished!
Very thorough course, especially when covering topics such as disposal or contemporary collecting. However, I felt that there could have been more discussion of how collections relate to those working in front of house roles within museums (who do not have that much input in how collections are managed, yet are expected to be extremely knowledgeable about them when communicating with visitors). The section that looks at the colonial history of collections and issues surrounding restitution/repatriation could also be revised or expanded to include the Black Lives Matter and Museums Are Not Neutral movements. I believe it is vital to interrogate not just the structural racism at the heart of an institution's past, but how this affects both the current and future used of a collection. While I think this was touched upon a little, the course would be better for having a dedicated section on the subject.
Great course, very accessible and a great variety of additional resources to watch, read and participate in.
A very interesting course for budding museum professionals. It has made me think in more depth about how we can use collections and help communities be more involved in their Interpretation.
Really well put together. easy to access and a nice mix of learning styles. I don't working in an institution with a collection so I appreciated the questions that put things into a hypothetical situation or looked at our personal "collections"
An interesting and stimulating course giving the wider picture of issues facing museums and looking forward. Thank you.
Extremely thought provoking and useful
Lots of interesting and useful content presented in a varied and engaging way.
This was a really useful and informative online course. I am a museum volunteer, and I am hoping to build a career within the sector. This course gave me some really good core information about Collections Care, Contemporary Collecting etc. that will hopefully be useful in the future.
A lot of typos (including nonsensical and/or redundant words) in the material, alongside a lot of broken links, proved for a frustrating experience even though the material was useful. I would also like, for accessibility reasons if nothing else, alternative audio to be provided due to the heavy amount of reading required - while not a problem for me personally, this would entirely exclude dyslexic participants and those with other learning disabilities which cause them to struggle with such a high amount of reading.
This was a create course in introducing me to collections management and getting me to think about it in practical terms.
Chloe Jo Fowler
An excellent course which was very well structured and engrossing. It helped to consolidate some knowledge while presenting new perspectives and encouraging me to reflect on my approach to museum collections. The links to factsheets and reports were incredibly helpful.
a great foundation in the collections management knowledge skills-sets employed by people across all areas of museums.
Great course! Gave me a lot to think about. One issue - since the recent MA website overhaul, some of the links to articles etc. in this course are no longer working. Sometimes it was hard to find the resources by other means. Have had the same issue with the Ethics course
Luis Claudio Lopez Morillo
I found this course extremely useful as an introduction to working with collections. The topics covered were wide ranging and engaging, supplemented with relevant articles and videos. I found it very easy to follow and enjoyed the course thoroughly!
Super helpful for someone just learning their way around museums as a sector, thank you for putting it together! I feel very inspired and learnt a lot from it.
Was dynamic, acknowledge and make think in a new way to develop and research in the collections nowadays. Totally worth it :)
Overall a very good introduction to working with collections and some nice articles and case studies. I liked the video content, perhaps more case study videos would be helpful, as it was a little heavy on reading in the first few modules.
A good overview of the issues but would have liked some more detailed content - not just links to other publications and soundbites.
Excellent - very useful
very interesting and informative
I've read a huge amount and taken even more notes, but I realised each time I worked on the course, the next day that learning had an impact on my work.
Fantastic course! Very informative and packed with resources.
Interesting and inspiring. A pity we can't do much in the Museum at the moment due to Covid.
Fantastic and useful course, lots of interesting reading which inspires further study and future career aspirations.
Started and completed this course during the lockdown months and it did not disappoint! As a museum professional working with collections I found the sections that focused on the Collections Trust and the guidelines for collections management, SPECTRUM standards, collection reviews and disposals particularly interesting and useful to my role. Great balance in the methods of learning in this course and always interesting to hear different perspectives from professionals in the field on such an important aspect of museums. Would have loved a online/pdf certificate on completion of this course though, would have been great to add to your portfolio/add as a reference for your CPD!
Good refresher, especially on doing a Collections Review and Co-Production. A section on making your interpretation accessible to all would be a good addition - or a new module maybe?
This course was really helpful in thinking about museum collections and best practice going forward.
I think more questionnaires and quizzes would help, something a bit more interactive is needed !
very good - really good overview with some really good case studies to think about...particulary like the quote that staff have the knowlege and skills and should 'enable access' not be gatekeepers...if only!
Guillermo Martin Calvo
Great introduction to people wanting to learn more about working with collections and how to make these fairer, more engaging and inclusive. The course is packed with useful resources. Really enjoyed it!
Really helpful and inspiring. Lots of great guidelines and opportunities for discussion, consideration and consolidation, whether you currently work within a museum setting, or not.
Great online course in bite size pieces to get you thinking and discussing.
Fantastic course!!! I feel much more confident in the work I do.
Excellent content that can be worked through at your own pace. The museum essentials course has allowed me to refresh my knowledge and will help focus my collections work as I look to continue my career.