Saturday, 10 October 2009

A sketch of the future for the waterways museums?

I have already said what I think of the Waterways Trust a couple of months ago, but have been surprised that it is now far and away the most popular post. Even more surprising is the number of hits from Gloucester and Chester ;)

Maybe I've struck a nerve.

I did double-check the post a few times for anything m'learned friends might not like. But the more I look at it, the more I believe I am right.

The Waterways Trust is too remote from those whom it most needs. It has a chequered reputation and needs to restore it. Meanwhile, like many societies and clubs, it relies on an aging, devoted band of volunteers but the 'attraction' doesn't pull in the new people like they expect. From the outside, from a distance, it feels like "Give us your money".

This is an oranisation that seriously needs a revamp; it needs to re-establish itself. Most importantly, it needs to understand what its role is because they are probably trying to be too many things all at once. There is a big difference between a collections-focused organisation and an interpretation-based entity. Look at the differences between the London Transport Museum, for example, and the Black Country Living Museum.

For the rather steady stream of readers from Gloucester and Chester reading these posts, in particular: I am not happy that I don't like the Waterways Trust, and I would dearly love it to do well. But it's in such a jumble and it is its own worst enemy. You don't need celebrity endorsements; you need paying customers and a real strategy. Start looking at heritage railways, the BCLM and a variety of museums across the globe.

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