On Thursday 30 April, Sue Healy (also a GEM Scotland Area Rep) & I took over the GEM Twitter account for their latest #EdSkillsShare session. We had a good response and when we wrapped up; we felt inspired, motivated, and overwhelmingly positive – thanks to the questions, comments and ideas put forward by the Scottish heritage, GEM, and wider museum community. So, a big thank you to everyone who engaged with us!

We had a lot of fun preparing for the session and then actually doing it too plus it was useful for us as reps. Here is a summary of the highlights, resources mentioned, and ideas put forward:

  • We started and ended the takeover by celebrating Scottish sites. First of all, we asked people to state their favourite Scottish heritage site and why, which got responses from Culloden in Inverness, to the Peoples Palace in Glasgow, to Verdant Works in Dundee, Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfriesshire and Jarlshof Prehistoric & Norse Settlement in Shetland! We then finished by sharing some good practice examples from around Scotland including The Battle of Bannockburn’s sensory backpacks and communication cards; the University of Aberdeen Museums involvement in the #GettyMuseumChallenge by digging up dog archival material to create a contemporary masterpiece and the ‘Prescribe Culture’ project led by University of Edinburgh Museums, which is a heritage-built non-clinical prescription to support students with mental health and wellbeing.
Image taken from the Battle of Bannockburn NTS’ Twitter account showing their communication cards and commitment to inclusion & access.

Image taken from the Battle of Bannockburn NTS’ Twitter account showing their communication cards and commitment to inclusion & access.


Image taken from Uni of Aberdeen Museums Twitter account @uoacollections which shows their creative #GettyMuseumChallenge.

Image taken from Uni of Aberdeen Museums Twitter account @uoacollections which shows their creative #GettyMuseumChallenge.

  • We celebrated that a Scottish museum – The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum to be precise – won the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Award last year. Furthermore, two other Scottish museums were shortlisted too: The Devils Porridge Museum and Riverside Museum. Well done to all three institutions and for representing Scotland’s historic heritage!
  • We highlighted that GEM’s Case Studies and blogs are a fantastic way to formally, and more informally, promote your educational heritage projects. It would be great to see more Scottish museums getting involved in these in the future!
  • We pointed out that Future Learn have several useful museum, learning, access, digital and Scottish themed courses for free! Explore their website to find courses which suit your profession or passions.
  • We tagged other Scottish based/active heritage organisations that are there to support, advise and collaborate with heritage educators: Museums Galleries Scotland, Scottish Museums Federation, Museums Association and the Scottish Learning Group. This was particularly relevant as one Scottish based professional highlighted that they’d like to see more collaboration in the future for training, events, and resources. Their reasoning for this was there is always so much going on, but it is hard to choose, especially for a part-time professional, so collaborating would decrease competition for attendees!
  • We shared three big resources for Scottish based professionals to tap into: Museum Galleries Scotland’s latest strategy which was released in March 2020, National Museum Scotland guidance for working with schools during covid-19 and Historic Environment Scotland’s Learn at Home initiative. Check them out if you haven’t already.
  • We asked for input on what people would like to see us do and provide in the future as GEM Scotland Area Reps. The responses were both intriguing and illuminating. Sue & Parris have noted the following for future plans: HES’ Stanley Mills in Perthshire was suggested as a potential venue; incorporating Scots language more into cultural sites as a potential theme for a lecture; sustainability, environmentalism and climate change were mentioned so these are potential themes for training, as more and more museums across the world grapple with making their sites more environmentally-friendly, we think this is a must for us in the future; digital themed training was stated too as we all must adjust to increased digital engagement, resources and communications; and finally it was cited that it would be beneficial if we could provide a platform to share ideas and best practice with other professionals to test out ideas in a supportive and friendly manner. All of these have given us food for thought and we will aim to incorporate them into future activities.
  • We noted two relevant Future Learns courses: one on podcasting (which comes recommended by York Army Museum); and ‘Working Lives in the Factory’ by Glasgow’s Strathclyde University featuring numerous Scottish heritage sites.
  • We were asked for recommendations for Scottish museum virtual tours! We suggested the following: the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine; the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Blair Castle in Perthshire; The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum; Surgeons’ Hall Museum and the National Museum of Scotland.

Both Reps are relatively new (having started their roles in February 2020) but so far Parris has been to London for a GEM Rep meeting which was very useful as she got to meet other team members like Rachel (the Director of GEM), Devon (GEMs Communications Manager) and reps from Wales, Yorkshire, London and the South West region.

Sue has sent emails out to all current Scottish GEM members; Parris has been updating the GEM Scotland Twitter page; and planning an autism themed training day. We’re going to focus on recruitment of members and creating a survey to find out what our members want.

Please get in touch with us via email [email protected] if you have any questions, ideas or just want to have a blether! Follow us on Twitter @gem_scotland too for latest updates and news by Parris & Sue.

Parris Joyce, Learning Officer, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum