Editor's letter
Learning to listen

The time of ‘build it and they will come’ is over - successful operators are really listening to their audiences, even when it’s tough to hear


I recently visited the newly-opened Young V&A – a radical reimagining of the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in East London. It was a real joy to watch children experiencing this space – gliding into the light-filled atrium on their scooters, crawling around happily in the sensory spaces and dancing and performing on the bright red stage built for that purpose.

It feels like the perfect museum for its audience and that’s no accident. The V&A (page 54) didn’t try to guess what young people might want from the new museum, instead it initiated a serious, wide-ranging process of consultation – engaging with more than 22,000 children, parents, carers and educators over a period of several years.

Local schoolchildren worked closely with the architects in a series of structured co-design workshops that informed the building’s design. Kids are not patronised here and no-one is making assumptions about what they’re interested in. For the exhibits, the team drew not just from V&A’s National Childhood Collection, as was previously the case, but also from the V&A’s huge collection of 2.8 million pieces. Paintings by David Hockney and Hokusai are displayed alongside vintage fashion, interactive toys and games and thought-provoking displays about climate change and sustainability.

It’s clear from having experienced the museum that to deeply engage children and families, the V&A had to be prepared to be challenged and to let go of controlling all the outcomes.

Another project featured in this issue is the long-awaited International Museum of African American History – a further example of a project that was born out of serious collaboration (page 42).

Originally planned as a museum about slavery, it became clear though public consultation that this wouldn’t be enough – people wanted a place that told the whole story of the African American journey, not just part of it.

President, Dr Tonya Matthews, admits that the decades-long consultations with locals and community groups were, at times, extremely challenging. Difficult conversations were had; there were strong emotions, disagreements, and some serious tensions, but it was all absolutely necessary and ultimately positive.

The lesson from both these projects is that listening skilfully to the people you’re aspiring to serve won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

Magali Robathan, editor [email protected]

 


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15 Jun 2024 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
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SELECTED ISSUE
Attractions Management
2023 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Learning to listen

Editor's letter

Learning to listen


The time of ‘build it and they will come’ is over - successful operators are really listening to their audiences, even when it’s tough to hear

Young V&A – developed after consultation Photo: David Parry/V&A Museum, London

I recently visited the newly-opened Young V&A – a radical reimagining of the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in East London. It was a real joy to watch children experiencing this space – gliding into the light-filled atrium on their scooters, crawling around happily in the sensory spaces and dancing and performing on the bright red stage built for that purpose.

It feels like the perfect museum for its audience and that’s no accident. The V&A (page 54) didn’t try to guess what young people might want from the new museum, instead it initiated a serious, wide-ranging process of consultation – engaging with more than 22,000 children, parents, carers and educators over a period of several years.

Local schoolchildren worked closely with the architects in a series of structured co-design workshops that informed the building’s design. Kids are not patronised here and no-one is making assumptions about what they’re interested in. For the exhibits, the team drew not just from V&A’s National Childhood Collection, as was previously the case, but also from the V&A’s huge collection of 2.8 million pieces. Paintings by David Hockney and Hokusai are displayed alongside vintage fashion, interactive toys and games and thought-provoking displays about climate change and sustainability.

It’s clear from having experienced the museum that to deeply engage children and families, the V&A had to be prepared to be challenged and to let go of controlling all the outcomes.

Another project featured in this issue is the long-awaited International Museum of African American History – a further example of a project that was born out of serious collaboration (page 42).

Originally planned as a museum about slavery, it became clear though public consultation that this wouldn’t be enough – people wanted a place that told the whole story of the African American journey, not just part of it.

President, Dr Tonya Matthews, admits that the decades-long consultations with locals and community groups were, at times, extremely challenging. Difficult conversations were had; there were strong emotions, disagreements, and some serious tensions, but it was all absolutely necessary and ultimately positive.

The lesson from both these projects is that listening skilfully to the people you’re aspiring to serve won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

Magali Robathan, editor [email protected]


Originally published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 3

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