South Africa: Train-the-trainer programme on collection management goes digital
Since 2018, the South African Museums Association (SAMA) and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) have been working together to provide training courses on the conservation of museum collections. These courses took place in different venues in South Africa, but due to Covid-19, this is no longer possible. Last March, before the lockdowns started, workshops on the conservation of ceramics, glass and metal objects took place in Pretoria. This November, the last of the workshops, on the conservation of furniture and wood, would have taken place in Cape Town. Now that that’s no longer a possibility, SAMA and the RCE are looking into new ways to work together on this, but in a completely different format.
Adapting to the circumstances
Normally the training would last for four days, with presentations in the morning and practical hands-on workshops in the afternoon. Being able to do these workshops in museums means that you have certain objects from the collection, storage areas and basic materials right where you want them. The question is thus – how to proceed digitally? The easiest are the presentations. With all the different programmes for online meetings, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it is always possible to get the message across. For the more practical parts of the training we’re looking into the use of short films to show treatments and other basic activities like handling, storage and cleaning. Online quizzes and questionnaires are available to get the participants to actively join the training. Discussing topics and case studies in smaller groups makes it more interactive.
Sharing experiences in challenging times
Luckily the members of the team from the University of Pretoria, Isabelle McGinn and Maggie Loubser, have experience in teaching online, having had to do that since March. In the Netherlands, the ErfgoedAcademie has a lot of expertise in this area and will help facilitate the training programme. It will be the first time that such an online training will be carried out, so it’s exciting to see how it will turn out. One thing that we know after following courses ourselves is the need to have a varied programme with different tools to keep everyone focussed. Sitting on your own behind a computer shortens the attention span. What we also learned during the preparations is that the world is suddenly a lot smaller!