Interview with Dana Andrew, ICOM UK Executive Director

This month our interview series is introducing the ICOM UK Committee members who are planning and organising this year’s online Working Internationally Conference.

Organised in collaboration with NMDC, with support from the British Council and curatorial support from Barker Langham, the conference will take the form of online sessions spread over three days, 16 – 18 March 2021.  Each conference day explores a key sector theme – Social Justice, Sustainability, and Futures, and is chaired by an ICOM Committee member or partner.


Dana Andrew, ICOM UK Executive Director talks to ICOM UK Secretary and Interim Vice-Chair, Catherine McDermott.

Q: Dana, thank you for talking to us.  Will you tell us about your work as a museum consultant?

A: Since leaving the V&A in 2014 I’ve worked as a consultant and trainer, supporting organisations of all sizes (from small museums to commercial entertainment companies) to develop a strategic approach to touring exhibitions (UK and international) and international partnership projects.  I love working for a variety of organisations and the opportunity to work with so many different and inspiring sector professionals.


Q: Would you explain to members your role at ICOM UK?

A: I work 12 days a month for ICOM UK and my role ranges from curating the weekly news and responding to enquiries, to ensuring governance requirements are met and representing ICOM UK at meetings with sector partners and networks.  The ICOM UK committee comprises sector professionals from across the UK and I am fortunate to work with them and support the delivery of their vision for ICOM UK.


Q: Dana, would you tell us the priority areas you are focusing on for ICOM UK this year?

A: Increasing value and communicating membership benefits is a key priority this year.  This is the time for sector support organisations like ICOM UK and ICOM to play an important role in providing opportunities to connect, share experiences, exchange skills, expand networks when meeting in person and visiting museums is not an easy option.

One positive benefit of the pandemic is that some MA students have the opportunity to undertake their placements online.  As ICOM UK doesn’t have an office, this means we have been able to offer online placements for the first time.  I jumped at the opportunity on behalf of ICOM UK and I’m delighted that two students chose to do their placement with us and get some practical remote work experience.  Amy Godin has joined us to work on the online Working Internationally Conference and Vereniki Vasileiadi has joined us to work on a marketing and communications strategy.

I also have to mention the ICOM museum definition consultation process that I support through the ICOM UK Museum Definition Working Group.  We will launch a short consultation survey and also have a morning networking session during the conference.

In 2021 I have a different conference role.  Until this year, I organised the annual Working Internationally Conference but I’ve taken a step back from the overall organisation to focus on the technical delivery of the 3-day online conference.  It’s really exciting to see the conference change shape this year. moving it online, and working with our partners NMDC, Barker Langham and the British Council, as well as an amazing line-up of speakers.  I hope it will be one of the highlights of 2021 for ICOM UK members.


Q: I know you are very active in building networks – what are your plans for the conference to connect members?

A: I am passionate about the value of personal and professional networks.  Although the past year has meant not being able to meet in person at sector events, I have been able to draw on my own experience of working remotely to make new contacts online.  Since 2014 I have been building online connections and, I wanted to create similar opportunities during the online Working Internationally Conference this year.  Keep an eye on the ICOM UK weekly news for details of the social networking event I am organising.


Q: What do you think are the main challenges ICOM UK is facing in the future?

A: Membership retention and increasing the diversity of our membership is our biggest challenge in 2021.  With reduced budgets and personal income, all expenditure is under scrutiny.  That’s why explaining and demonstrating membership benefits, and increasing the value to our members, is so important.  It’s why I’ve championed ‘members-only’ or ‘priority booking for members’ events exploring relevant global topics, such as A Meeting Place: Online Global Discussions for Museum and Gallery Professionals and the online format for the Working Internationally Conference.


Q: How do you see the future for ICOM UK?

A: The future of ICOM UK (and ICOM) is the next generation of emerging museum professionals.  The lived experience of the current generation of young people will influence big shifts in who the sector serves and how it operates.  ICOM UK wants to see the sector adapt to this change and evolve new, relevant ways of working. including increasing visibility of non-traditional and non-Western European ‘museum models’.  As part of the ICOM family, ICOM UK must create opportunities for connecting global and local museum communities.


ICOM UK, ICOM and NMDC members can book free conference tickets via Eventbrite.  Tickets are also on sale for non-members.