GEM Conference 2019

Connection, Action, Innovation

Forging dynamic and lasting partnerships with communities

Wednesday 11 September – Friday 13 September 2019, Torquay Museum

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.

GEM conference is always a great opportunity to connect with the fantastic heritage learning community, sharing our challenges and celebrating our innovations.  This year we collaborated 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. This year, delegates did not disappoint; creating a buzz and leaving with renewed passion and concrete next steps. Gemmers continue to strike a balance between reconnecting with the philosophy of what we do and generating practical takeaways.

We were pleased to be joined by the following keynote speakers:

  • 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 shone a spotlight 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  explored 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 tackled the challenges faced by learning teams and communities and shared cutting edge developments from both small and large organisations.  Together, we explored 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.

For more details about the conference programme, please download the full conference programme here. You can also read some daily recaps on our blog! 



For the 2019 Conference, we worked with the Disability Collaborative Network for Museums CIC (DCN) to ensure we ran an accessible event in respect to physical, sensory and cognitive access.

Download the Access Information for GEM Conference Delegates

See last year’s conference here.

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