Making the most of our culture during lockdown - Donald Wilson

It has been a year like no other, a year when all our services within the council, like everything else, had to adapt quickly and decisively. And for many, it completely changed the way they live and work.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 7:00 am **Pics Free to use** Pictured Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener New exhibition explores the world of children’s literature at The Museum of Childhood Growing Up with Books, Museum of Childhood, 1st June – 9th December 2018, Free Entry From the never-ending adventures of Peter Pan, shipwrecked tales from Robinson Crusoe to mysterious personal insights and hidden messages from previous book owners, Growing Up with Books will chart a magical journey through centuries of children’s books. The new exhibition which opens on 1st June at The Museum of Childhood, will provide a free shared experience for children and adults to recount and discover those timeless tales which first prompted a lifelong love of reading and inspire a new generation to discover the many wonders waiting to be discovered through children’s books. The exhibition has been developed over the course of a two year project through a collaboration between Scotland’s Early Literature for Children Initiative (SELCIE) at the University of Edinburgh and the Museum of Childhood, focusing on the many hundreds of books which have been donated to the museum over the years. Growing Up with Books will include a selection of the 15,000 books in the Museum collection, from the 18th Century through to the 20th Century, featuring some well-known and much loved characters and tales, as well as many new discoveries, including personal messages from those who have previously owned and loved the books. The new exhibition which is free to enter, will provide residents and visitors to Edinburgh of all ages to enter into a world of books and stories, discovering (or rediscovering) a lifelong imaginative journey. Curated into five themes: Learning to Read, Worlds of Knowledge, Shaping Identities, Worlds of Imagination and The Lives of Children’s Books, visitors will be taken on a journey through the various wonders which lie in wait behind the pages of th

You could pick any area of service but I want to highlight the work of our Museum & Galleries service and how the team went virtual, creating online versions of exhibitions, digital lectures, podcasts and coming up with educational programmes that parents and teachers could use at home.

Before Covid-19 our Museums and Galleries had begun to integrate digital platforms, but we’ve seen this evolution accelerated by the pandemic. It’s been a challenging process but our curators and staff have really risen to that challenge.

Of course, we weren’t completely digital for the year and were able to reopen the City Art Centre from mid- September to just before Christmas, and in that time 4 new exhibitions were installed and proved popular with visitors.

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Our museums team have engaged really well with schools, with officers running live, weekly art sessions with primary schools to support at home learning. These art sessions are inspired by paintings from the City Art Centre as well as our Edinburgh museum collections such as the Museum of Childhood and encourage children to discuss artworks and objects and to get creative by taking part at home.

The service also delivered an impressive 74 events digitally that would have been run in one of our venues. A series of digital lectures covering topics from Addressing the Legacy of Slavery and Ghosts of Edinburgh Women Who Chose to Challenge for International Women’s Day were watched by over 6000 people.

They were also able to do digital versions of diverse events such as visually impaired tours, BSL signed tours as well as dance, music and choir streams bringing people together from home.

Our online services have been embraced and this is very encouraging as we plan for our service post-pandemic.

When lockdown is lifted and we have access to the 'real' and no longer have to make do with the 'virtual', I think there is opportunity for a balance between the two. We certainly can’t wait to welcome visitors back but we’ve seen that our digital space can be special in its own right and can reach even wider audiences.

Last month it was announced that Museum & Galleries Edinburgh will receive a total of £55,125 from Museums Galleries Scotland’s Covid-19 Development Fund to help create the service’s first Digital Engagement Strategy - supporting and building on the work done during the pandemic to keep connected with local communities and virtual visitors from across the world.

During lockdown, our digital channels have been the primary way we’ve been able to engage with our audiences. Although forced into this situation by the pandemic, we have seen the many benefits and long-term opportunities for this work and are excited to explore what we can do going forward. This has been down to the hard work and dedication of our wonderful Museums and Galleries staff, of whom we are very proud.

Cllr Donald Wilson is Culture and Communities Convener