Concept Generation Workshop

Way back at the end of an April we had a brilliant concept generation workshop at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. Colleagues from various universities, plus MOLA, Historic England, MOSI, and even representatives from Industrial Museums Scotland made their way to Reading to discuss ‘unloved’ collections.

Tools talk
Tools talk

We started the day with two parallel workshops looking at the Museum of English Rural Life stores. Half the group explored the stores and reflected on their own reactions to some less than eye-catching objects and an unusual storage space. The other half heard from the team at MERL about some recent projects working with historical hand tool collections and a ‘Stakeholder’ project with crafts specialists.

In store
In store

Following this we launched the scary ‘Open Space’ section of the day, asking participants to sketch out their thoughts around the prompts “unloved” and “interventions”. The afternoon was shaped into a series of discussion groups around the key topics that emerged. For anybody that’s interested the discussions were:


  • Love?
  • Aesthetics
  • Mystery/ undocumented/ orphaned
  • Disturbing objects
  • Stakeholders
  • Play and frivolity


  • Creative Deaccessioning
  • Funding, support, champions
  • Digital
  • Artists and Creativity
  • People and personality
  • Embodiment


We’re still working out how we can distill and disseminate this beyond the group but in the mean time it has helped us with the topics for our November conference at the Science Museum. If any of these topics have fired up your interest there is still a little time left to submit an abstract.