A fantastic thing about being a consultant is how many great projects and teams I am privileged to work with on a daily basis. So you can imagine my pride when, on reading the shortlist for the Museum+Heritage Awards this year, I found 3 clients had been nominated as well as 2 organisations for whom I volunteer.
Top of the list of course, were the team at the Coffin Works, run by Birmingham Conservation Trust, of which I am a trustee. We were up for the Customer Service Award – very fitting given the passion of our staff and volunteers, and my own professional interest in good quality visitor experience. Christine Cushing, one of our excellent FoH volunteers and I were there at the ceremony to represent everyone.
In the Educational Initiative category were the talented Creative Bridges team from Herbert Media, part of Culture Coventry, whose 2-year Esmee Fairbairn-funded project I am evaluating. Their project is focussed on building the confidence and embloyability skills of young adults with learning disabilities, involving them in live commissions and work experience in some of the City’s many creative industries. It’s a fascinating project that is proving very satisfying for its participants. Project manager, Kerrie Suteu was there to collect a HIGHLY COMMENDED for the team.
Staying with Culture Coventry, Coventry Transport Museum were nominated for the Permanent Exhibition Award. The HLF and EDRF-funded project has enabled the Culture Coventry team not only to redisplay all but 2 galleries in their huge venue, but also to overhaul their learning and community programming, and build a new volunteering programme for front of house that may well see them nominated in years to come. I am working with DC Research on the evaluation of this work over the next 2 years. Although unplaced, the team were in excellent company on the shortlist.
NT Croome, whom I have worked with over the last decade whilst volunteering for NT Whose Story? and NT Regional Advisory Boards, were nominated for a Trading & Enterprise award for their innovative Sky Cafe, perched on top of the scaffolding above the current HLF-funded restoration work on the Court. They were HIGHLY COMMENDED, behind the winners, Black Country Living Museum. So what ever happened, the prizes all came to the West Midlands! And it was lovely to see that the volunteers from the Defford Airfield Trust, who now have a museum space at Croome, were nominated for the Volunteers of the Year Award too.
Last of my clients up for an award were the Cadbury Research Library, part of the Special Collections Department at the University of Birmingham, nominated for the Restoration or Conservation prize for their work on identifying, restoring and exhibiting the 9th Century Qu’ranic Manuscripts recently discovered in the Mingana collection. Josefine Frank, project manager, found the resultant exhibition and community interest provided a tremendous boost to the Esmee Fairbairn/MA Collections-funded Mingana Community Engagement activity, and I shall certainly enjoy writing up its effects in my final evaluation report. Sadly, the team went home empty handed, but the shortlist recognition for their conservation staff is well deserved.
So what of the Coffin Works you cry? Did we win?
“Quirky, innovative, creative, passionate.” That’s us!
Christine and I were over the moon on behalf of the team. Really. If we could have rocketed up there, we would have done. We managed to get to the stage, make a speech, and sit down again without tripping over, and we were so proud and thrilled by the prize and by the outpouring of compliments in person and online for our wonderful staff and volunteers (you can see those in our storify of the event).
Christine Cushing, self, and presenter, Marcus Brigstocke, collecting the Coffin Works award for Customer Service at the M+H Awards 2016. Photo copyright Simon Callaghan.
The Coffin Works has won 6 awards since we opened in October 2014, for the building restoration, for the collections conservation, for the volunteers. This one, alongside the People’s Choice Award at the Heritage Angel Awards 2015, is one of the most important. A great building, dedicated curators, passionate staff and volunteers are nothing without the support of the public, and a great visitor experience. As a trustee, I work hard with the team to make sure we offer that, and reviews on Tripadvisor and from our peers tell us that it is Top Class. Thanks everyone!