National Programmes
Conference and Seminars

Over the last eight years the British Museum has held an annual conference focused on partnerships in the museum sector.

The British Museum regularly hosts lectures, seminars and conferences, but the National Programmes is sector-facing, with a focus on working across the UK.

The annual conference is designed to be a networking opportunity and a chance to share ideas and best practice, network and inspire new partnership activity. We want to make sure that the conference is relevant and useful to the museum representatives who attend.

We are open to ideas and suggestions for the annual conference. For more information please contact Georgia Mallin, Knowledge Share Programme

Lecture theatre

4 November 2019

National Programmes Conference 2019

Booking now open

This year’s National Programmes Conference will explore equality and diversity in museum practice across the UK. The conference will highlight issues of representation, authority and power with particular focus on disability, class, gender, race and sexuality.

Generously supported by the Vivmar Foundation, the day will include a lively programme of workshops, discussion and debate, which we hope will be shaped by contributions from colleagues across the UK.

This one-day conference seeks to provide a platform for people working in and with museums to honestly and openly share their work, research and ideas on how UK museums can address their own histories and those of their communities. The conference will focus on museum practice: addressing the realities of museum work and how colleagues are effecting change within their organisations.


Public discourse on issues around diversity and representation is intense, widespread and critical for the development and relevance of our work. From debates in the press and in Parliament, to crucial sector-level reports such as Arts Council England’s recent report Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case and the 2018 report Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries these conversations cannot be ignored. They have immense significance for museums – not only for the ethics of museum practice, but for the principles of their continued existence.

Museums’ own histories and present-day operations are intimately bound up in the UK’s structures of power: they are largely public institutions, founded and funded by governments, universities, historical societies or wealthy individuals. Current debates around inequality, and mis- and under-representation, have direct ramifications for museums – what they do, what they represent, and the stories they choose to tell. These issues come into play across all areas of museum work.

The museum sector, including the British Museum, is thinking about how we address this. This conference aims to bring together practitioners from across the country to explore how museums and cultural institutions are actively responding to these debates, when they too have inherited the complex, problematic and often deeply traumatic legacies of the eras in which they were founded. We may not be able to change those histories, but we can acknowledge them – and this conference seeks to showcase what is currently being achieved.

Conference programme

The programme is currently in development but we aim to include a variety of critical and reflective presentations, case studies, workshops and practical examples. We want to cover as wide a range of museum work as possible, from varied approaches to collecting, collections research, object display and interpretation, to public engagement and workforce diversity. We aim to encompass two key strands, which are distinct but interconnected:

  • •    The work of museums [e.g. how we ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’ collections research, care, display, interpretation, public engagement, etc.]
  • •    The context of museums [e.g. policy, power structures, accountability, the unrepresentative workforce, etc.]

How to book

Tickets are now available to purchase online.

Thanks to the support of the Vivmar Foundation, the price of tickets to this conference has been kept as low as possible. Concessions tickets are available for anyone who needs them (e.g. disabled people, students, early-career professionals, low-waged or unemployed, etc.)

If there are any barriers that may prevent you from engaging with this conference, please contact to talk through how we can support you.

Information for delegates

This event is open to anyone working in or with museums: museum professionals, representatives of sector bodies, community partner organisations and people working in the arts, cultural heritage and creative industries with a relevance to the museum sector, and others working in these fields including charities and third-sector organisations, freelance practitioners, artists, activists, funders, academics and early-career scholars. We particularly encourage emerging museum practitioners to take part.

We are keen to reach a UK-wide audience so a limited number of travel bursaries are available for those who would otherwise be unable to attend. These will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. If you would like to request one, please email once you have booked your ticket, letting us know why attending the conference will be beneficial to you and your work, and what support you need.

Please note:

Registration on the day will open at 9:30am, with presentations beginning at 10:30am.

Lunch will be provided.

A photographer will be present throughout the day, documenting the event for the Museum; by attending you will be agreeing to this photography.

Access information

All conference spaces are wheelchair accessible.

Live subtitles will be available in our main lecture theatre. We will gather additional access requirements from delegates after booking but if you have any queries at this stage please contact

Further access information and specifications of our conference spaces can be found at this link.

3 September 2018

National Programmes Conference 2018

Museums and digital memory: from creation and curation to digital preservation

Last year the British Museum's National Programmes team hosted its free annual conference in partnership with the Digital Preservation Coalition, thanks to the generous support of the Vivmar Foundation.

The conference explored the subject of digital content in museums, with a range of lively workshops, discussion and debate shaped by contributions from colleagues across the UK.


Conference Scope:

The UK museum sector is making increasingly creative use of digital technologies in the way it records and disseminates information about its collections. These technologies and advances in museum practice offer dynamic and exciting new ways of engaging people with collections, but they also provoke urgent questions about how we manage and preserve all the digital content we’re creating.

Looking after physical assets in archives and collections is at the heart of museum work, but how do we do the same for our digital assets? What are the new skills museums need to safeguard digital content and how will we develop them?

This conference aimed to explore best practice in how we as a sector create, curate and preserve digital content – not just the exciting outward-facing side of digital technology in museums, but the often overlooked back-of-house digital preservation work that is essential to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of these efforts.

Central to the day was the question: if museums are memory institutions, how do we ensure that we maintain access to the digital memory that we’re creating now for our future audiences?


The conference programme, session summaries and speaker biographies are available. Delegates, speakers and audiences from afar also held a lively conversation on Twitter throughout the day. Join the continuing conversation using the hashtag #MADM2018.

Recordings and presentations from the day will also be made available online here as far as possible in the coming weeks, please check this page again soon for further updates.

31 August 2017

National Programmes Conference 2017

Get what you give? The value and benefits of proactively lending collections

The 2017 National Programmes conference, hosted at the British Museum on 31 August 2017 thanks to the generous support of the Vivmar Foundation, explored the subject of lending museum collections. #proactivelending

Conference Scope

Lending is a vibrant part of our sector, and museums’ capacity to borrow from each other is being substantially increased thanks to recent initiatives such as Arts Council England’s ‘Ready to Borrow’ grants programme, the Touring Exhibitions Group’s 'Preparing to Borrow' initiative, and the Art Fund Weston Loans Programme.

This conference was designed to explore how we can make the most of these opportunities and get more collections on the move, with the aim of encouraging and supporting UK museums of every size, as well as non-museum spaces with collections, to proactively lend to each other and to borrow from wider sources.

Conference Programme

The programme for the day included a range of sessions exploring the following themes though presentations, workshops, discussion and debate:

  • •    The role of public and private collections, with a keynote presentation from Museums Sheffield on their major project ‘Going Public’.
  • •    Models for touring and lending, with a keynote presentation from Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on their dispersed exhibition ‘Hadrian’s Cavalry’, and new research from the Touring Exhibitions Group.
  • •    Partnerships and collaborations, with case studies, Q&A sessions and a discussion workshop. Speakers included Imperial War Museums, the DeMorgan Foundation and the National Trust, Tate, and Two Temple Place.
  • •    Innovation and experimentation, with case studies, Q&A sessions and a discussion workshop. Speakers included the Freemasonry Museum and Leeds Museums & Galleries.
  • •    Practice, skills and logistics, with participatory workshops, funding case studies and presentations from the Arts Council England and the Art Fund, and practical advice surgeries on loans, the Government Indemnity Scheme, managing risk, registrarial work and touring exhibitions.


Delegates, speakers and audiences from afar held a lively conversation on Twitter throughout the day. Join the conversation using the hashtag #proactivelending, or review a selection of tweets online 

The full programme can be viewed in PDF format 

Select presentations from the day can be found below:

Better Borrowing: Results and Recommendations from the TEG Lending and Borrowing Experiences Survey (Charlotte Dew, Touring Exhibitions Group) 

Sharing works of art in the UK (Helen Cooper & Laura Murphy, Tate) 

Get what you give: new ways of working (Jamie Andrews, British Library) 

Avoiding conflicts of interest (Jenny Judova, Vastari) 

Going Public: How can regional art collections work more effectively with private collectors? (Museums Sheffield) 

Hadrian's Cavalry (Bill Griffiths and Lisa Keys, Tyne & Wear Museums & Archives / Minerva Heritage) 

Freemasons where you didn’t expect them – finding potential for loans from a ‘specialist’ collection (Mark Dennis, Library & Museum of Freemasonry) 

The healthful influence of art (Ruth Martin, Leeds Museums & Galleries) 

Collections Trust (Sarah Brown, Collections Trust)