GEM Conference 2019

Connection, Action, Innovation

Forging dynamic and lasting partnerships with communities

Wednesday 11 September – Friday 13 September 2019, Torquay Museum

Bookings and advertising opportunities now open!

*Evening activities and full programme announced!*



The GEM annual conference is the landmark CPD event of the year for heritage learning in the UK. Through a combination of inspiring keynotes and practical sessions, GEM conference provides delegates with new ideas, original solutions and strengthened networks. We build a participatory space, by Gemmers, for Gemmers, uncovering new pathways and shining a spotlight on best practice and cutting-edge developments.

Download the full programme!

GEM conference is a great opportunity to connect with the fantastic heritage learning community, sharing our challenges and celebrating our innovations.  This year we are collaborating with South West Museum Development to learn about the huge achievements in community relationship-building, volunteering and managing limited resources in this area. We are always proud of the uniquely friendly, supportive and positive environment of GEM conference. Delegates create a buzz and leave with renewed passion and concrete next steps, striking a balance between reconnecting with the philosophy of what we do and generating practical takeaways.

Keynotes announced! We are excited to welcome:

  • David Anderson, National Museums Wales
  • Ali Bennett, Qatar Museums
  • Piotr Bienkowski, Consultant
  • Dominique Bouchard, English Heritage
  • Alex Coulter, Arts & Health South West / Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance
  • Dhikshana Pering, Brent 2020 – London Borough of Culture
  • Kate Richards, Squircle CIC
  • Melissa Strauss, National Lottery Heritage Fund

Every week in the month lead-up to conference, we are spotlighting one of our speakers – get to know some inspiring Gemmers here!


Connection, Action, Innovation
Forging dynamic and lasting partnerships with communities

“With audiences, not for audiences” is now at the heart of heritage learning. The museum can no longer stand apart, but must live and breathe as part of a local, national and global ecosystem.  Working with South West Museum Development, Connection, Action, Innovation will explore how learning and participation can forge dynamic and lasting partnerships with communities to cultivate innovation, activism and wellbeing, as part of this ecosystem.

The conference will tackle the challenges faced by learning teams and communities and share cutting edge developments from both small and large organisations.  Together, we will explore how we can develop…


  • Fostering relationships with communities as a hub for social action and wellbeing.
  • Delivering programming that is responsive, inclusive, and represents a variety of voices.
  • Questioning what a “community” is and how this affects our practice and results.


  • Discarding the idea of the museum as neutral, taking a stance against inequality.
  • Challenging assumptions, building confidence, and pursuing activism to impact our shared society and wellbeing.


  • Developing a resilient, effective workforce that reflects local communities, and elevates contributions of staff and volunteers.
  • Learning from our communities, finding exciting new pathways and practices with them.
  • Empowering all voices to speak up, take charge and make change to, with, and through the museum.

Taking part in Connection, Action, Innovation will be invaluable to anyone working in museum, heritage and cultural learning in both large and small organisations.  Please join us as we challenge the notion that cuts have left us with little to work with, bringing innovative and passionate people together to spark inspiration and drive the heritage learning sector forward.

Download the full programme!


Date and venue

We are pleased to be holding GEM Conference at Torquay Museum, Devon, from Wednesday 11 September to Friday 13 September 2019.


Evening activities

After a long day of learning, discussing and networking, unwind and have some fun with us at our conference evening activities!

Wednesday 11 September: Murder Mystery Evening – The Curse of Amenhotep!
Torquay Museum is the unique setting for an exciting and unusual fully interactive Ancient Egyptian Murder Mystery trail, a special event for GEM conference delegates. A priceless Egyptian artefact has been stolen – the Stone of Amenhotep. A murder has been committed. Is this the infamous Curse of Amenhotep or is it a robbery gone wrong? Buffet meal included, only £30! Find out more and book now!

Thursday 12 September: Drinks Reception at Torquay Museum, sponsored by Wessex Archaeology
From 17:00 we will be hosting a drinks reception at Torquay Museum for delegates to relax and chat at the end of the day. No booking or fee is required, just come along and raise a glass to heritage learning!


How to book

To book your place for Connection, Action, Innovation, please download the GEM Conference 2019 Booking Form and return it to or GEM, The Joiners Shop, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TZ by Monday 2 September 2019.

To make this conference as accessible as possible, we’ve reduced the prices by almost 10% from 2018 and offered an early bird rate to non-members!

The fee for GEM conference is:

  • GEM member rate (whole conference): £365
  • Non-member rate (whole conference): £550
  • GEM member rate (day fee): £135
  • Non-member rate (day fee): £185

Evening activities to be announced soon, with separate booking online.



This year we are also working with the Disability Collaborative Network for Museums CIC (DCN) to ensure we run an accessible event in respect to physical, sensory and cognitive access.  If you need any additional support or features in order to attend or deliver a session, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with

Dowload the Access Information for GEM Conference Delegates


Exhibit and advertise at GEM conference!

We have a range of great, low-cost opportunities for you to share your project, services or products with the GEM heritage learning community. GEM conference is the perfect place to communicate with active and enthusiastic heritage learning professionals looking out for new ideas, providers and partnerships. See the Exhibitor and Advertiser Brochure for more information.

To book a stand, download the Exhibitor Booking Form and return it to or GEM Office, Unit 10, The Joiners Shop, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TZ. To book an insert, contact


See last year’s conference here.


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