MLP Testimonials

Andy Baird (Acting Deputy Director, Audience Engagement, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart) - MLP 2015

Across a week of intense thinking, learning and immersion, the Museum Leadership Program provided a multitude of insights large and small. I dug the well and definitely struck water and, as hoped, reignited the passion for museums as the place to be.

Key insights? The idea of creating a powerful ‘foundation myth’ for a museum as espoused in the session with Neil MacGregor had particular resonance; it opened up understanding of how a poetic, visual, and intellectually robust yet simple narrative can guide an institution in such diverse ways as defending beneficiaries (the public) against threats, aiding partnership development, fostering community engagement, embracing the online world and brokering discussion around object ownership.

Conversely from the same day’s session: the empowerment that arose from a realisation that we in Australia and New Zealand have a significant divergence from British imperialism in our understanding and respect for First Nations’ intellectual and property ownership and where knowledge resides – apologies to Neil if I’m misrepresenting.

I learnt, with no great surprise, that I’m on ‘L’ plates with social media engagement, but now I can see how to turn the ignition key and the opportunities are so bloody evident! ‘Elegant design’ as a feature of good strategy (and solutions in general) was another brilliant framing of perspective and a criteria-tool for seeking solutions. And the creed about focusing on the important rather than the urgent – I wish.

Of course, the chance to talk shop with diverse fellows, now a network of colleagues across Australasia who share so many similar challenges, will be an invaluable help in the digging that will come with an ongoing career in learning and museum leadership. Yep, the MLP program was – is – a fantastic opportunity and highly recommended: Dig in!

Dermot Henry (Manager, Natural Science Collections, Museum Victoria) - MLP 2015

The course definitely exceeded my expectations. The week-long residential experience, hosted by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, provided the opportunity to work with high-level museum and gallery professionals from across Australia and New Zealand. 

The learning environment of syndicate groups, daily changing work groups, and of course the discussions in the dining room, ensured that, across the week, I engaged with all the participants.

Our thought-provoking course facilitator, Professor Jeanne Liedtka, kept the group entertained and alert for the entire week (even after our fine luncheons). 

The guest speakers, all successful international leaders in their subject, were informative and engaging and challenged the group to look at problems from a variety of perspectives. The openness and honesty the participants brought to the discussions throughout the week was, for me, the most valuable aspect of the course.

I feel the course provided the opportunity to reflect on the problems affecting modern cultural institutions.  The emphasis on developing quality planning processes and on the importance of implementing strategies to shape change, rather than merely react and respond, is something I hope I can further develop, and implement in my work practices, to help address the challenges facing Museum Victoria.

Sarah Murray (Curator Human History, Curatorial Manager Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand) - MLP 2015

Taking the time to reflect on learning is an important part of the process and, in the weeks since the 2015 Gordon Darling Museum Leadership Program, I have often found myself contemplating all the exciting and energising concepts we covered in what was a jam-packed six days. While the course traversed a wide range of relevant topics, there were several aspects that stood out in particular for me.

As a relative newcomer to the role of Curatorial Manager at Canterbury Museum, I was particularly interested in learning about my management style and the strengths and weaknesses that different approaches can bring to a role. The DiSC profile and related exercises were, for me, a new way of considering my behaviour and the ways I can best work with the team I manage, as well as working with my colleagues in the management group. MLP has encouraged me to reflect on the ways I interact with my high-performing team and it has inspired me to confront some of the issues facing us as a group, so that we can achieve more and do so with improved communication.

While relationships between team members was a key area of interest for me, in a related, albeit different line of inquiry, the course has also caused me to contemplate the time, effort and ways my organisation nurtures the advocates we already have. As a museum, it is easy for us to thank our stakeholders for their donations or assistance at the time of support, and then forget about them afterwards. What difference could a follow-up thank you or invitation to an event some months later make to these relationships? Could it mean that we turn a supporter into a more vocal, and generous, advocate? How can we best create, nurture and develop these relationships within the limits of our organisational resources?

One of the most valuable aspects of the course was participating in a learning environment with other experienced and passionate cultural sector workers. The chance to meet leaders in the field, and to share ideas, techniques and strategies was unparalleled. Conversations about commonalities such as challenges in working best with team members, communication issues, and working with heritage collections or heritage buildings, provided an opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another’s practice and skills. The course was a good reminder that sometimes simply taking the time to consider institutional and personal challenges, and to share these with like-minded and impartial professionals, can be of great value in working through an issue and creating a plan for tackling it.

On both a personal and professional level, the opportunity to build connections and networks throughout Australasia has been of enormous benefit; our group and sub-groups are already corresponding via email on a range of diverse subjects. The fact that the MLP achieved significant results not only in the six-day residential course but in the weeks that followed is testament to the fact that such training offers our leaders an amazing and significant opportunity, with valuable networks continuing afterwards.

Carolyn Murphy (Head of Conservation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales) - MLP 2015

The Museum Leadership Program was a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues and make connections.  It has been interesting to reflect on my expectations going into the program and what I came away with.

As with all good learning experiences, I have come away with new ways of thinking about the things I had hoped to cover, plus a whole lot of new things to think about moving forward.  I was particularly impressed with the teaching of Jeanne Liedtka and Neil MacGregor, who were both generous with their time, knowledge and expertise. 

I also appreciated the opportunity to look at philanthropy and fundraising in more detail – which is an area of work I am regularly engaged with but have sometimes found challenging. 

Probably the greatest outcome for me has been around approaches to strategic thinking and leadership, and the importance of storytelling as a means of shaping and guiding the future of an organisation by making connections and continuities with its past.

Brett Dunlop (Director Museums, Sovereign Hill Museum Association, Ballarat) - MLP 2015

There were many personal highlights for me in MLP 2015. One was spending a day with Neil MacGregor, gaining an insight into how he has reframed problematic repatriation discussions into a compelling narrative about the British Museum’s origins and purpose.

Another was working with Jeanne Liedtka on strategy and techniques for ‘designing a new future’ for organisations.

A learning that I can put into action immediately came from Kay Sprinkel Grace on fundraising – which is to perceive fundraising as an opportunity for donors to make a gift to the community though my organisation.

This will require quality conversations with potential donors to understand their goals and values, but for me it is far less intimidating to help a donor make a gift than it is to ask them for money!