We began our research with Open Conversations led by Bradford Community Broadcasting. We asked questions about what was exciting people about Bradford and the potential of the museum. Although we sought to shape the conversations positively, the question of the negative representations of Bradford in the national media was a key theme and informed the development of Above the Noise: 15 Stories from Bradford. Both in terms of content and approach, Open Conversations paved the way for the rest of the project.
The Bradford’s National Museum project started with Open Conversations. They were led by Mary Dowson and Bradford Community Broadcasting. Over 30 people in Bradford took part in Open Conversations, either through being interviewed by Mary, another member of the research team or at an Open Day that was held at the museum.
To launch the Open Conversations we said:
We want to start a conversation with people in Bradford. We’d love to talk about what’s going on in Bradford and about how National Science and Media Museum in Bradford can make a positive contribution.
The first part of the conversation is to really learn about all the things which are happening in Bradford at the moment: What’s exciting? What’s changing? Who is making brilliant things happen?
The second part of this is exploring where people see the opportunities for the resources of the museum to be opened up and put to good work in Bradford.
We also want to use the Open Conversations to build an active network of people – movers, shakers, people who get stuff done – who are interested in engaging with the NSMM and the project. We hope we might then be able to build new collaborations both as part of the research project and as part of the wider work of the museum.
We want to start talking about:
- What is exciting you about Bradford at the moment?
- Is there anything you’d like to see develop or change in Bradford?
- What memories do you have of the National Science and Media Museum? What is exciting you about the National Science and Media Museum at the moment?
- Do you have any new ideas about how the National Science and Media Museum can make a positive contribution to Bradford?
- We’re looking for people who are making a difference and making good things happen in Bradford at the moment. Who else do you think we speak to?
One of the key issues that emerged was a perception that Bradford was not represented fairly in the national media. Responding to this concern, the question of whether the National Science and Media Museum has a role to play in changing national perceptions of Bradford became a question that was taken up in Above the Noise: 15 Stories from Bradford.
We also used an approach similar to the one we used in shaping this publication. Museum staff got together for informal listening sessions to share and discuss the Open Conversation recorded by Mary. In both content and approach, Open Conversations helped shape everything that came later.
Open Conversations was such a great way to start to understand Bradford’s relationship with the Museum. It was heart-warming to hear how much pride and affection Bradford people have for the Museum – even if they hadn’t visited for 20 years, people were so proud to have the National Museum here in Bradford! How to put Bradford into the museum was definitely a recurrent theme that emerged from people across the board.
Mary Dowson, Director, Bradford Community Broadcasting