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What are museums for?

Gillian Reynolds, James Delingpole, Dea Birkett, David Barrie and David Fleming discuss issues facing modern museums, including accessibility for all, visitor interaction and collections.

While you listen

This debate was recorded on Thursday 17 May 2007 at Merseyside Maritime Museum. The panel discussed a number of issues facing modern museums including:

  • Should we make museums more accessible to everyone, including children, or should they be preserved as hallowed spaces for reflection?
  • Should we be focusing on greater visitor interaction or should we be concentrating on the objects themselves - are the two mutually exclusive?
  • What are museums for anyway?

This event was run in collaboration with Kids In Museums.

The speakers were:

Chair
Gillian Reynolds MBE
As well as having been a Trustee of National Museums Liverpool, Gillian is also the radio critic for the Daily Telegraph and a regular broadcaster on radio and television. She was the founding Programme Controller for Radio City, Liverpool and was awarded an MBE in 1999 for serices to broadcasting. She has also served a number of charitable and public bodies connected with broadcasting, archives and education.

Panel
James Delingpole
James is a writer, author, broadcaster, polemicist and hack, writing on everything from rock in the Sunday Telegraph to fashion and polar bears. His latest books are How To Be Right (an A-Z of all the things that are most most annoying about modern Britain) and Coward on the Beach. His essay, 'What are museums for?' won the 2005 Charles Douglas-Home Memorial Trust Award, although he admits to having no real qualification to talk about museums, other than he likes them and wishes they were in safer hands.

Dea Birkett
Dea is possibly best known for being the mother of a family thrown out of the Royal Academy for being too noisy. As a direct result she went on to found and direct Kids in Museums, a visitor-led organisation which encourages greater family-friendliness in Britain's museums and galleries. Dea is also a writer and broadcaster, member of the Museums Association Ethics Committee, a Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Creative Director of Many Rivers Films.

David Barrie
David is the Director of The Art Fund, a charity which helps museums enrich their collections, and campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors. He is a Trustee of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), the Campaign for Museums, the Ruskin Foundation and the Gulbenkian Museum of the Year Awards.

David Fleming
Director of National Museums Liverpool, David is also a Trustee of St George's Hall and the Bluecoat Arts Centre. He is President of INTERCOM (International Committee on Museum Management and Leadership), Chair of the National Museum Directors' Conference UK Affairs Committee, and an external examiner for Museum Studies at Leicester University. David was awarded an OBE in 1996 for services to museums.

Apologies to anyone whose name we have misheard for the transcript.

Elsewhere on the web

James Delingpole's winning essay for The Charles Douglas-Home Memorial Trust Award 2005 entitled 'What are Museums for?'.

Dea Birkett's 2003 Guardian article on being thrown out of the Royal Academy and the initial response to Kids In Museums.

The Art Fund.

Kids in Museums


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