Community hosting at Royal Museums Greenwich

To reduce barriers for local community groups, the National Maritime Museum part of Royal Museums Greenwich, piloted a community hosting project to provide spaces in the museum for local groups to use for meetings, events and social activities.

The programme aimed to introduce the museum to local non-visitors firstly as a practical space through which they can continue their regular social routine. This has provided a soft introduction to the museum for groups to become familiar with, enabling groups to develop a better sense of ownership of the Museum as their space, and has led to individuals bringing families and friends back to the Museum to explore further.

It was discovered during a community leaders open day that local community groups were struggling to afford a venue to host their meetings and activities. The National Maritime Museum (NMM) has a number of well-equipped learning spaces that are suitable for local communities and therefore a collaborative project was developed to introduce the museum to local non-visitors.

Jo Knox, Royal Museums Greenwich

It was discovered during a community leaders open day that local community groups were struggling to afford a venue to host their meetings and activities. The National Maritime Museum (NMM) has a number of well-equipped learning spaces that are suitable for local communities and therefore a collaborative project was developed to introduce the museum to local non-visitors. This provided a soft introduction to the museum, allowing groups to become familiar with the space and enabling them to develop an increased sense of ownership of the museum.

Community groups local to the borough of Greenwich were contacted with details about the opportunities at the NMM. Bookings were also made by groups who already had connections with the museum. For example, the Three Cs, a local organisation supporting people with learning disabilities or mental health difficulties, got in touch to enquire about the use of spaces. They used the Lecture Theatre every Monday for ten weeks for their Acting Up drama group. Other organisations contacted the museum directly to enquire about spaces including Good Food in Greenwich, a network of local organisations interested in food and sustainability, and TALIA, a Greenwich based charity providing events and activities for Italian speaking families. Thames21 volunteers used a learning space on four occasions to train to become Thames Ambassadors to speak to the public about the Thames, its history and its wildlife.

The project has put Thames21 in touch with Museum staff, which in and of itself is very useful. Having long intended to build a closer relationship with the museum given the potential for overlap in our work, using the Museum’s room has made this easier.  As a result of this relationship, a number of museum staff participated in a Thames survey and litter pick on World Oceans day enabling Thames21 to demonstrate the project first hand with the potential for more aligning of projects and messages in the future.

Thames21 coordinator feedback

The group leader from Greenwich Mind fed back that coming to the museum has helped a very vulnerable group to be courageous and make the journey initially. Now the group really enjoy their visits and Greenwich Mind use it as an opportunity to walk around the museum and explore Greenwich afterwards.

Before using the spaces, group leaders sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to the conditions of using the spaces and the support from the museum that is available.

Some of the activities proposed by one or two charities were not appropriate for this programme because they charged group member to attend. The museum is free to the public so the programme restricted use of the spaces to activities that were free to participants and aligned with the values of the museum.

The Community Hosting programme has enabled local organisations to use the Learning spaces at the NMM outside of the use of the spaces for the Museum’s regular learning programme for a wide range of activities. The programme has offered practical help with the provision of a space to hold meetings, events and rehearsals which in some cases has been a spring board for exploration of the museum and the local area. In addition, relationships between organisations and staff have been strengthened leading to collaborations on events and staff training, which in turn has strengthened the resilience of local community groups, charities and the NMM.

Jo Knox
Learning Programmes Coordinator 
Royal Museums Greenwich