National Justice Museum visit Norway with ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant

Joanne Kingdom, Learning Officer at the National Justice Museum  travelled to Norway in November 2018 with an ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant.  This is a report from Joanne’s visit.

For one day in September 2018 the National Justice Museum hosted six members of staff from the Justismuseet (Norwegian National Museum of Justice), so as to establish a link between both museums and share knowledge and expertise.  The staff spent a significant part of the day finding out about our education programme and the resources we use, as well as observing an education session being delivered to a local school group. They also explored the museum and its exhibitions, where we explained how we use the site and its collection particularly for formal and informal learning.

Therefore, the purpose of the visit to the Justismuseet in Trondheim was to continue and further develop the partnership we have already established.  As well as being able to share our best practice concerning education development and delivery, we wanted to learn from them about their successful use of social media and their community engagement programme.  We also hoped to develop collaborative projects with them around various crime and punishment themes such as gun crime and law, which is of cultural significance in both countries.

Joanne and staff from the Justismuseet

Most of my time in Trondheim was spent at the Justismuseet, where I learnt more about the museum and its collection as well as the local area.  I observed an education session and heard about their learning programme which they hope to develop using our learning programme as inspiration. 

I also joined a couple of members from the team in a meeting with the local Deaf Museum (Norsk Døvemuseum) to hear about the ‘Mind the Gap’ project and the work they do regarding accessibility.  This museum is used as a valuable resource for all the cultural establishments in Trondheim and the Justismuseet has close links with them; some of the staff have done work for them such as marketing or developing resources.  Through this meeting it was clear that Norway has not developed its provision for those with Autism to the same level as in the UK.  This is something that I hope to help both Justismuseet and Norsk Døvemuseum with in the future.  I also visited the Vitenskapsmuseet in my own time to explore how another museum used accessibility resources such as dual language interpretation, a sound dome directional speaker and lighting.

Over the few days I was in Trondheim I was able to learn about the Justismuseet, their collection and the development plans that they have.  I was able to share some of our experiences of a redevelopment having recently gone through HLF funding and exchanged knowledge with them about community engagement and heritage education.  This has further strengthened our relationship with Justismuseet and we hope to work together much more in the future.  I was also able to meet staff at Norsk Døvemuseum and begin a working relationship with them and will be sharing information and resources, particularly about Autism and accessibility.

The visit wasn’t without its challenges not least that they speak a different language, however most people in Trondheim spoke English well and the museum staff were able to translate the education session I observed.  It was interesting to see how well cultural and heritage organisations in Trondheim use dual language interpretation, something which we need to improve on.  We will face further challenges in being able to visit the team in Norway due to the fact we are a charity and will need to apply for funding.  In comparison Justismuseet’s staff visit to the UK was funded by the Norwegian government.  We have also learnt that Justismuseet will have a change in Director early next year so we are unsure how the partnership will be affected or at least how this will affect how much we can collaborate with them in the meantime.

Former prison cells now used as offices at Justismuseet

I gained valuable experience in working in partnership with another heritage organisation and having the confidence in my own knowledge and skills to pass these on to others.  My background in primary school teaching enables me to deliver school sessions effectively and therefore I passed on my knowledge to the Norwegian staff in what schools are needing on education visits as well as my knowledge on SEN accessibility. 

I was able to see how the Justismuseet exhibits and interprets controversial subjects such as abortion, something we find more challenging to do so in the UK, which I can pass on to the curatorial team.  I learnt about how they currently cater for the general visitor, especially families, and have taken away some ideas from this visit as well as share with them some successful activities that we have created.  I also saw how they successfully worked together with other organisations in the city to support each other and share resources which I feel Nottingham heritage organisations could, and should, do more of.  I will be encouraging colleagues to do this.

My visit to Trondheim was the first time I had done anything like it.  I would not have felt able to do so without the support of the Director of Learning, who has experience of working with other organisations and who I was able to talk to about the visit before I went. I spoke to my colleagues about what they wanted to get from the visit and what they wanted to find out which helped me to have a focus in discussions with the Justismuseet museum staff.

I would recommend being aware of funding opportunities, or at least of the organisations which provide financial support for these visits, as I would not have been able to go without a travel grant because I work for a charity.  I was lucky my Director of Learning had heard about it and was able to share it with me.  I would also recommend spending time researching where you are going, the organisations you are going to and already establishing contact with them before you go.  I exchanged several emails with the Justismuseet before I went which made me feel more at ease with the visit.

Joanne in the courtroom at the Justicmuseet

Moving forward, in the first instance we shall continue to exchange support and knowledge via email as well as keeping up-to-date with the developments happening in museums on both sides. For example, I am going to share information concerning Autism and the considerations that needs to be included to make a heritage site more inclusive.  This is something that our organisation is currently trying to implement further and we will be able to share our successes and challenges with the Justismuseet staff. 

Whilst the Justismuseet is being redeveloped they will bring in touring exhibitions and this is something we may be able to contribute to, however this needs to be discussed further.  The ultimate goal would be to create an international exhibition using collection items and archive material from both museums. This would require further visits to Norway and more funding would be needed to enable this.  Both organisations would like to do further joint working next year, however this may be affected by the change in Director at the Justismuseet.  We hope to keep communication with staff in the meantime and will still be able to share information and knowledge in the interim.

This visit has allowed us to develop an international partnership with museums of a similar remit and collection, which is something we have previously not done, and has allowed each museum to share their own knowledge and expertise to further support each other.  Networking is something I find difficult for personal reasons, but going on a visit to heritage sites in another country has helped me build my confidence in my ability to talk about my knowledge of museum education and to learn from others about areas I know less about.