Part 3: Future Directions

Through the Bradford’s National Museum research process, it became obvious that significant challenges are created by the National Science and Media Museum connecting to Bradford and seeking to become more open, engaged and collaborative. It is possible to see and experience these challenges as contradictions which are frustrating and exhausting. And it is important to acknowledge that, alongside elation, feeling tired and dispirited was part of the story of Above the Noise: 15 Stories from Bradford for both museum staff, the project team and our story collaborators who live and work in Bradford.

The factors that produce the tensions represent different facets of the mission of the National Science and Media Museum. They are related to the ways in which the National Science and Media Museum is ‘national’: the fact that the National Science and Media Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, the implications of decision-making in a large multi-sited organisation, the process and procedures deployed to manage the museum’s responsibilities to collections and the pressures created by seeking to produce exhibitions, a film programme and events that attract large numbers of visitors.

As a result, the tensons that arise when the museum has sought to work locally and in a collaborative way are not fully or finally resolvable. Yet where we have arrived – with the final push offered by this publication process – is that the tensions, once honestly acknowledged, can be approached in a way that turns them into strengths. To put it another way, the tensions created by navigating what it means to be national while being located outside a capital city are precisely what makes the National Science and Media Museum the National Science and Media Museum.

The Future Directions for the National Science and Media Museum and its relationship with Bradford are set out in two ways, through a letter to Bradford from the museum and through focusing more specifically on the ways of working that will make the Tensions as Strengths approach meaningful.

The letter and ways of working have cohered a ‘we’ of the museum – it is a statement which seeks to make visible the issues the museum faces in working locally and how it wants to approach the negotiation of these tensions as a creative and fruitful part of organisational culture and a culture of collaboration. The ways of working are more specific and suggest tactics to enable greater alignment between the national and local where possible and a positive activation of the tensions where alignment is not possible.

However, in the spirit of the multiple perspectives that have animated the Bradford’s National Museum project from the first, the collective ‘we’ of the museum letter and the ways of working are accompanied by personal postscripts by staff and our collaborators. The personal postscripts act as both affirmations and qualifications, they enable individual voices to be heard and underline aspects of Tensions of Strengths to make visible what might need to be in place or be considered to make them as useful as can be. The personal postscripts also work as a performance or enactment of the commitment to challenge, discussion, reflection and learning evoked in the letter.