Our Museum: Communities and Museums as Active Partners was a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Special Initiative 2012 – 2016. The overall aim was to influence the museum and gallery sector to:
* Place community needs, values and active collaboration at the core of museum and gallery work
* Involve communities and individuals in decision-making processes
* Ensure that museums and galleries play an effective role in developing community skills and the skills of staff in working with communities
This was to be done through facilitation of organisational change in specific museums and galleries already committed to active partnership with communities.
Our Museum offered a collaborative learning process through which institutions and communities shared experiences and learned from each other as critical friends. Our Museum took place at a difficult and challenging time for both museums and their community partners. Financial austerity led to major cutbacks in public sector expenditure; a search for new business models; growing competition for funding; and organisational uncertainty and staff volatility. At the same time, the debate at the heart of Our Museum widened and intensified: what should the purpose of longestablished cultural institutions be in the 21st century; how do they maintain relevance and resonance in the contemporary world; how can they best serve their communities; can they, and should they, promote cultural democracy?