On Friday 15th November, part of our team attended the Sharing Collections Symposium, organised by the Touring Exhibitions Group and Art Fund, and held at the Natural History Museum in London. The day was an exploration of lending and borrowing between institutions, and attended by a range of curators, exhibition managers, and partnership teams from large national to small regional museums.

The day included a number of keynote speeches, beginning with a look at the Natural History Museum’s ‘Dippy on Tour’. At Vastari, we have always believed that connections matter, and that art and history is something that should be shared and seen by all, so listening to Jon Murden, Executive Director of Dorset Museum, speak about the impact that the loan of ‘Dippy’ had on their community and local economy, was heartwarming. Exhibiting the diplodocus skeleton added £1,100,000 to the local economy and increased the museums visitor numbers to 153,189 between February - May 2018. Jon spoke about the friendships and collaborations that were forged in local communities thanks to the loan, such as small cafes banding together and school groups working in projects, and it was a perfect example of what sharing works can achieve.

There were then a series of interesting talks that looked at the logistics of taking loans from large organisations. Lynda Powell of Green Howards Museum discussed what loans, both from public and private collections, meant for the visibility of their exhibition on wartime Russia. This was followed by a keynote from Alice Briggs, Assistant Curator at Ceredigion Museum, who spoke about what happened to the shape of her exhibition after a loan request fell through, and how Tate Modern staff helped her find replacement objects that suited the theme of their exhibition (also how the theme of their exhibition took a new direction after Brexit).

During the roundtable discussion, chaired by Dana Andrew, programme managers from the Tate, National Museums Scotland, National Gallery and British Museum gave their opinions on how to borrow from national institutions, and some of the pitfalls included in this. One of the most common issues that seemed to arise from all of the speakers was the need for time when organising loans. As they can take months to prepare, and as they can already be booked, it is best for organisations to get loan requests in as early as possible to avoid disappointment. This is of course not always easy, and one of the greatest benefits we see from borrowing from private collections is the speed at which loans can be completed.

Overall, it was a great day in which to connect with colleagues from museums and learn more about the loan process. Thank you TEG and Art Fun for organising an important day of networking and connection.

Image taken from the Sharing Collections Symposium: What’s been achieved? What’s next? event page.