The British Museum’s International Training Programme (ITP) gives museum and heritage professionals from across the world the opportunity to come to the UK and share knowledge, skills, and experiences. International participants can forge professional partnerships and new friendships as well as develop their careers and shape the future of their institutions.
At the British Museum, the programme is tailored around group sessions covering a full range of museum activities, as well as individual placements in specific collections departments, for a more focused professional experience.
One of the great strengths of the International Training Programme is the time participants spend with the UK partner museums. This allows them to experience regional organisations with strong local collections and community programmes, which often have stronger relevance to the participants’ own museums and audiences. The partner programmes are able to reflect the needs of the participants, and provide hands-on experience working in smaller, mixed-nationality groups, helping to develop the international network the ITP is so keen to promote.
For the partner museums, the ITP provides the opportunity to work alongside participants, exchange knowledge, and forge long-lasting links with colleagues and institutions abroad.
Feedback from participants and partner museums includes:
“… at the Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, I was able to share knowledge from my specialism with thestaff. They had a collection from El Fustat in Cairo and the curator didn’t have any information about it, so I helped her to organise it and gave them some information”
Doaa Abd El-Sattar Kamel Osman (Egypt, ITP 2011)
“Although the Lincolnshire situation is different in many ways from National Museums of Kenya, a lot was learnt which can be implemented with minimal cost such as development of better policies and school learning programs.”
Freda Nkirote Joy M’Mbogori, (Kenya, ITP 2013)
“During ITP I learnt that international collaboration between curators is very rewarding and an essential aspect. I was delighted to hear that the Deputy Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Dr Fiona Kerlogue was going to visit India. I met her when the ITP group visited her museum so she contacted me and I helped to coordinate her visit to the National Museum, New Delhi, to a few other museums and arranged for her to meet various curatorial colleagues. Many of her research queries were answered by relevant scholars and I arranged for her to give a special lecture as part of the National Museum’s monthly lecture series.”
Shubha Banerji (India, ITP 2014)
One of the main logistical challenges of organising the ITP is supporting the participants’ visa applications. The success and efficiency of visas being granted varies by country, though we have seen a marked benefit in working closely with the consular sections for each country. We find that potential participants who have successfully received visas before (both for the UK and other countries) have a greater success rate when applying to come on the ITP. We advise participants to apply in plenty of time, because a refusal often simply clarifies what information was missing from the initial application, and when they re-apply with additional documentation, the success rate improves. For further information on visa applications read here.
The care and welfare of our participants is always our priority, particularly while they’re in the UK. Participants are provided with full travel and medical insurance for the duration of their stay, accommodation, local and UK travel tickets, a weekly subsistence, and a ‘handy guide’ to life in London and the UK. Perhaps most importantly, we provide participants with a preloaded SIM card and ensure internet access wherever possible, as keeping in touch with family and institutions is invaluable to colleagues working away from their home countries for so long.
For many of our participants, the ITP is their first time abroad, so it’s essential they feel ‘at home’ right away. Our aim is that our colleagues spend as little time as possible worrying about logistics, so they can focus on sessions and projects, fostering collegiality, skills sharing, and worthwhile experiences.
The ITP alumni now totals 183 participants from 27 countries, and the global network being developed between the British, our UK Partners, and our past participants is proving beneficial to all.
Claire Messenger, Manager of the International Training Programme, The British Museum