Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme.

What a year 2019 was!!  Due to the COVID pandemic, 2019 was our last International Training Programme summer programme so it holds special memories for us.  Sadly, we said goodbye to Rebecca Horton and Jessica Juckes who left the ITP team for pastures new, but it did mean we were delighted to be joined by Emily Shaw and George Peckham who helped me deliver the summer programme and as you all know, George has stayed on with us as part of the ITP team. 

We were also lucky enough to welcome Mohamed Mokhtar (Egypt, ITP Fellow 2015) back to the British Museum for 10 weeks as the seventh Senior Fellow. Having Mohamed join us to deliver the summer programme was fantastic and particularly in 2019, with two new members of the team, showed how vital the role is to the ITP.  I really don’t know what I would have done without him!!

Mohamed has worked in heritage and culture in Egypt since 2000 gaining skills and experiences at sites and museums across the capital Cairo, including the Giza Plateau; National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation and the Abdeen Palace Museum while also spending time in the office of the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities.  As well as bring that knowledge with him to the Senior Fellow role, Mohamed also had great experience of London, the UK and the British Museum so was able to support the ITP team and our cohort of 2019 Fellows.

In summer 2019 the British Museum and nine UK Partner Museums welcomed 23 fellows from 16 countries to the UK from 8 July to 16 August. For the 14th annual ITP summer programme we saw the addition of five new countries – Colombia, Georgia, Romania, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan – to our growing global network, which now totals 299 fellows from 48 countries.

One key aspect of the 2019 summer programme, was the number of new partners we worked with to deliver sessions and facilitate visits.  We welcomed back some colleagues who have worked with us before – Jasper Chalcraft, University of Sussex, who led a session on Cultural heritage and peacebuilding – but we also worked with colleagues and institutions new to the network.

Amandine Merat, freelance curator, gave a tour of the new Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world to share her experiences as project curator for the gallery refurbishment. Annabel Jackson, of Annabel Jackson Associates, delivered a session on the importance of evaluation followed by a workshop focusing on a logic model exercise. While Sara Kayser, museum consultant, Kultur IT, led a session on museum documentation which aimed to help fellows broaden their understanding of how to develop, manage and deliver a documentation system to help manage their collections.  Groups were also kindly welcomed – for the first time – to the London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE and the Royal Mint Museum.

In 2019 our fellows worked again on an Object in focus project to plan and propose a temporary exhibition around an object from the Museum’s collection selected by their project mentors, working within the theme of ‘Journeys’. Working on an object from another country and culture meant that the fellows work together as a group – across their pairings – to help and support one another.

We also kept the programme current and topical through our Museums Project Day which provided another opportunity for fellows to visit London-based museums, with the aim of encouraging them to use their experiences from the ITP and as heritage professionals to consider their displays and collections.  In 2019, increased activism in the UK and abroad with the aim of tackling climate change, guided the choice of museums.  Fellows were asked to focus on a range of aspects of the selected museums’ offerings to its audiences, and to think specifically how environment and sustainability – whether directly through a special exhibition or more indirectly through the permanent displays – was represented.   

But I think, what stands out for me looking back at the ITP summer programme 2019, was how brilliantly our cohort worked together and encouraged me throughout the six weeks they were with us. Knowing that the two of the three ITP team members were new – not just to the ITP but also to the British Museum – our ITP Fellows 2019 worked hard to do their up-most to support us and I would really like to thank them for that.