Curious Encounters: reflections from the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

Lotte Inch, Marketing and Events Officer, Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery:

From our very early meetings with members of the Curious Encounters group, myself and my colleagues at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery have been overwhelmed by the professional and organised nature of this group of researchers. In a scenario where what they were planning was new for both them and us, the process had the potential to be challenging. However their professional approach to working within a public facing environment, with new audiences and with new partners has run very smoothly and has been a resounding success. Only further highlighted by the overall success of the event itself!

I can honestly say that it has been lovely working with the Curious Encounters group. For them, I think, it has been good to see ideas become a reality and to see that engaging with new audiences can be a reciprocal process of learning and sharing research, ideas and interests. I’m hoping too that it has offered them an insight into the practical processes involved in organising events in public spaces, in particular, the Gallery, which I know some of the group had not been aware of prior to the project.

For the Gallery in turn, it has renewed our faith in working with researchers and has provided the opportunity to engage in a project outside of our normal circles of activity and with researchers from a variety of fields of interest. It has been great to introduce them to the Gallery and to create connections between subject areas and to welcome, in turn, the many people who visited the Gallery in order to attend the event. Personally, I have found it enlightening to discover just a small snippet of some of the interesting and diverse research topics that are being addressed literally on our doorstep.

In the future, it would be wonderful to repeat this event with a new group of researchers and to consider making this public engagement project an annual event in our calendar. If there are any groups of researchers out there interested in talking about this, then please do get in touch. We are always open to ideas for collaboration!

Alice Clayden, Gallery Attendant, Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery:

Myself and Laura were unsure about how the Curious Encounters event would go at first as we weren’t entirely sure a) how many visitors we would get in b) how the visitors would interact with the research on show and also the researchers as individuals. But because the event was so well organised and involved such a range of work it went great! The group knew exactly what they were doing when they arrived and it was obvious that they had really thought about the space we have to offer in the Gallery. They had planned out and taken the time to anticipate the flow in which visitors would view the different stalls.

We had a great mix of visitors. Regulars who had come along to see what was going on, people who were just generally visiting but then were happy to ask questions get involved and we also had people who had never visited the Gallery before (many of which worked/studied at the Uni!) and had come specifically for the event. It’s always good to get new people in the Gallery! Because the ‘stalls’ were so varied there was something for everyone. Also it was inviting for visitors that a lot of the researchers were really laid back but obviously passionate about their subjects, there were no forced/over the top/intimidating welcomes when people were near them.

On a personal level myself and Laura found out a lot about various things which were going on in the University which we wouldn’t have found out about otherwise. A lot of the researchers were working on things which involved in some way archives within the University eg music/film. This focus on archives for example then has a strong link to what we do in our collections work. It was interesting and highlighted how many links/opportunities to collaborate with other departments there are within the University. We think the Gallery and the University would really benefit from having these type of public engagement events again in the future.

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