British Museum: international reputation – local connections

November 8, 2010

It’s not short on visitors – certainly not needing to boost its visitation! (couldn’t believe how many school groups were there on Friday!), but it still matters to the British Museum to make connections with its local community.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a session with some of the Community Team on Friday afternoon. Once a month there is a session especially for over 55s, where local community groups can make some special connections with the collection. The sessions are not open to the general public – instead community groups can book in. That way some common themes or interests can be identified and sessions designed around these.

The sessions are facilitated by the Communities team, and begin with a cup of tea and a biscuit – just to make people feel at home. Next there is a chance for people to handle some selected objects from the education collections. Through the

Donna describing some of the objects for handling

discussions that follow, the group decides which parts of the displays in the Museum they would like to see, and then there is a chance for a guided tour to visit particular objects on display.

I sat in with a group from an organisation called Opening Doors, for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. Although the group was small, we had some lively discussions, led by Donna and Harvi from the Museum. We looked at various textiles, and discussed issues of gender roles and dress, before we set off into the galleries, exploring Greek pottery and the busts of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his lover, Antinous (which the Museum now displays together), and the Warren Cup. These objects were selected from the Museum’s tour which explores same-sex relationships and gender issues. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/themes/same-sex_desire_and_gender/introduction.aspx

Despite how busy the British Museum is, it was great to sit on a program which connects with people at an individual level.

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