On 10 and 11 November 2010 Significance International held its inaugural Sustainable Collections Workshop on Significance Assessment in Canberra, Australia. Presenters and attendees alike were very pleased with event, held at the Australian National University.
The six participants came from as far as Western Australia and Queensland and had diverse backgrounds: archaeologist, manuscripts librarian, freelance historian, collections advisor and public and private museum managers.
Most hadn’t prepared a significance assessment before, but all were aware of the importance of using significance assessment to define collection characteristics and priority needs.
Those with prior experience used this opportunity to seek guidance from Roslyn and Veronica on difficulties they had encountered in their work, as well as to hone their skills in preparing and writing the statement of significance.
Two short readings were sent electronically to registered attendees in advance of the workshop. These eloquent articles underpinned some of the learnings and provided points for discussion across the two days.
One of the aims of the workshop was to convey a ‘conservation sensibility’ when working with original material. Information about material characteristics was provided for items in both the ‘simulated collection’ and those brought by participants for study purposes. Conservation study and working aids were provided, and methods were explained and practiced.
On the first day most participants opted to accompany Roslyn to the updated Classics Department display in the A.D. Hope building - a five minute walk away. The unanimous opinion was that the new display is very appealing and informative.
Each participant kindly completed an evaluation form about the workshop experience. As an inaugural event we sought genuine feedback on all aspects of the event from intellectual content and flow, to quality and quantity of the designed activities and presentation formats, right through to matters of catering, venue, fees ($500 plus GST), and administrative communications.
We were overwhelmed by the positive response to our evaluation questions. For the few items scoring less than an 8 on the optional grading scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 represents the best possible result), we have taken note and have begun to revise these parts e.g. one session will be restructured and venue alternatives will be investigated (one person expressed difficulty in finding the venue on the university campus, and another in finding a car parking spot).
Comments from the evaluations best illustrate the mood and outcomes of the workshop. Here is a selection.
‘Some real clarification of some broader issues, and a change in my focus on how to ‘manage’ a collection. Professional development on conservation matters and principles. Great networking opportunity’
'Great presentation. Appreciate the structure and format. Good to set time frames and stick to them. Very informative and appreciate the wealth of professionalism offered’
‘I now understand significance and how to apply it’
‘Both presenters were very knowledgeable and willing to share their expertise. Found both very approachable and eager to answer questions.’
‘A clearer direction on managing our particular situation’
‘I have really enjoyed this and enjoyed talking with the others’
‘Facilities and refreshments were ample and well spaced’; ‘Food and drinks were well provided and breaks at good intervals. Good that lunch was flexible’; ‘Well done! Just right’
‘Excellent value for money. I feel the course was money well spent!’; ‘Really great content for fee’; ‘Good value for money. Good to have the experts to answer questions and discuss issues’
‘Excellent venue’; ‘Great venue’
[re Communcations] ‘Very prompt responses. Helpful information’ ‘Spot on – nothing left out’
SUSTAINABLE COLLECTIONS – SIGNIFICANCE ASSESSMENT WORKSHOP #1
DAY ONE – WEDNESDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2010
Exploring the significance concept
[group work: brain storm, discussion of readings]
The simulated collection
[individual work: primary sources of information; provenance]
[group work: the value of using frameworks]
Your object / museum
[individual presentation: primary source of information]
DAY TWO – THURSDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2010
Overview of significance assessment – Significance 2.0
[powerpoint presentation: preparing to write a statement of significance]
Statement of significance
[individual work: first draft then review]
Statement of significance
[individual work: second draft]
Whole collection assessment
[presentation: problems encountered]
Concluding remarks and presentation of Certificates of Completion
At the end of this two-day workshop we stated that participants would be able to:
- better understand the 'primary source' value of objects and collections
- integrate the multiple meanings of collections into broader historic themes
- successfully apply the 'Australian method' for significance assessment, including generating a 'statement of significance' for an object
- confidently approach whole collection significance assessment
We look forward to meeting you at one of our Sustainable Collections Workshops - either in Significance Assessment or Risk Management for Collecting Organisations.
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