MA Conference 2018

The Museums Association (MA) Conference & Exhibition 2018 was held earlier this month at The Waterfront, Belfast, returning for the first time first time in 30 years, with the theme Dissent: inspiring hope, embracing change.


The MA said it chose Dissent as this year’s theme because of the challenging times and the fact that museums need to be brave in order to face up to those challenges. They believe that the programme and sessions on Brexit, conflict in Northern Ireland and gender and identity politics will stretch delegates to think beyond the norm. Organisers say the conference is all about fostering debate and discussion, learning from each other, hearing different views and thinking about how museums can be forums for debate and reflection.

PLB_Drag_Acts_MA_AwardsOne of the many highlights of the conference was the The Festival of Change which included drag kings and queens, Jamie said, ‘It was great entertainment but the underlying message was about challenging stereotypes and fostering progressive and inclusive practice’.

The conference had speakers from all over the world such as Americo Castilla from Argentina and Elaine Gurian from America who discussed museums as public centres for cultural activism. Laura Raicovich former director of Queens Museum in New York spoke about neutrality in museums and socially engaged practice. as well as museum professionals from across Ireland who explored current working and how museums can engage with contemporary issues such as Brexit.

Roisin Higgins from Teeside University, a curator for National Treasure and a Director of the Irish Association of Professional Historians, brilliantly summed up the conference by saying it had been a fantastic time exploring dissent and how to embrace the multiplicity of voices and ‘there is a reason to be cheerful as the right questions were being asked’.