Christine McLeanBy Christine McLean, Community Engagement Manager (Project Manager Sounds Global)

As part of our Stories of the World London 2012 project, Sounds Global, we have been working with consultants Space Unlimited to find out what young people think about National Museums Scotland. In three short, intensive and immersive days, staff from the museum worked with Space Unlimited and two groups of young people aged 16/17 years from Canongate Youth Project and Firrhill High School, Edinburgh.

Day one

Day one.

The young people drew images representing what the museum means to them.

The young people drew images to represent what they thought of the museum.

Pictures representing the museum

Drawing pictures of the museum.

As the day went on, everyone became more relaxed

As the day went on, everyone became more relaxed.

The young people worked hard but were supported and empowered to give honest feedback about National Museums Scotland: their final-day presentation to 10 staff from the museum was powerful and insightful.

For example, we learnt how museums can sometimes seem intimidating to teenagers. ‘They’re just somewhere that you’ve got to be really quiet, and they can be quite dull,’ explained Richard from Firrhill. Hannah, also from Firrhill, pointed out that: ‘The people you see there are always old people or little kids, there’s never really anyone in the middle.’

We all ended the session feeling positive and energised, ready to make changes to how we work together. Here’s what some of the young people said:

‘I learnt that you can work with anyone, even people that you think you won’t get on with, on the first day,’ Hannah, Firrhill.

‘[I’ve gained] More confidence to talk to people, like grown-ups,’ Martyna, Canongate Youth Project.

We all ended the session feeling positive and energised, ready to make changes to how we work together.

We’ve continued our contact with the young people, some of whom visited the National Museums Collection Centre for a behind-the-scenes tour.  They even met composer-musician, Victor Gama, visiting from Portugal to work at our conservation labs on one of four instruments he has created for the new Performance and Lives gallery, which will be one of 16 new galleries unveiled when the transformed National Museum of Scotland fully reopens this summer. The gallery will inspire our Sounds Global installation and it was great  for the young people to hear, first-hand from Victor and Museum staff, more about the project.

Meeting Victor Gama at the National Museums Collection Centre

Meeting Victor Gama at the National Museums Collection Centre.

Now we know more about what attracts and motivates young people to engage with the museum, we’re starting to feed some of our findings into our programme for 2011, and will continue working with the young people to develop this and the Sounds Global project.