Written by George Peckham, ITP Assistant

We wish the global network of ITP fellows, partners, supporters and followers Season’s Greetings and all the best for the coming year!

What a year 2021 has been. We have had to face many of the same challenges which we saw in 2020 and we’ve continued to adapt to new ways of living and working. Most importantly, we hope you are all entering the New Year in good health following what has been another challenging year for all of us.

2021 began with much of the same uncertainty as 2020 had. The UK was under a strict lockdown due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The British Museum, like many museums in the UK and around the world was once again forced to close. Claire, Anna and I have continued to work remotely throughout the year, with the hope that we can begin returning to the Museum more regularly in 2022.

However, there have been reasons to be hopeful in 2021. At the start of this year, vaccinations against COVID-19 began to be rolled out across the UK and around the world. Vaccinations are helping to reopen the doors to travelling internationally again, so we hope that next year we can finally welcome our ITP 2021 participants to the British Museum.

After many months of lockdown, the British Museum re-opened its doors to the public on May 17 2020.  With other mitigating measures – mask wearing, limited visitor numbers and social distancing – we felt that this year we wouldn’t be able to deliver an ITP summer programme, in July and August, in its usual format. However, in collaboration with our wonderful and supportive colleagues around the Museum and our UK Partner Museum network, this year we reshaped the annual programme into a new and exciting format.

This year we launched the first part of our ITP 2021 Annual Programme: our very first e-Learning course! We created the e-Learning with the use of a Learning Management System which could be added directly to the ITP blogsite. The e-Learning was a series of sessions designed and created specifically for the ITP cohort 2021, delivered online over a period of 8 weeks with one session, plus supporting resources and engagement projects, released each week.

Along with introductions which aimed to contextualise the annual programme, the e-Learning course comprised of eight ‘core skill’ modules which are typically the main elements of the ITP Summer Programme:

  • Collections Management
  • Audiences
  • Conservation, Preventative Conservation and Scientific Research
  • Permanent Displays – The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World
  • National and International Loans
  • Temporary Exhibitions – Tantra: enlightenment to revolution
  • Museum Management
  • Going Digital

Each week’s session also included a series of eight ‘in discussions’ on current and topical issues in the culture and heritage sector which included, among other things, Record and Condition Photography, curating temporary exhibitions, and cultural heritage conflict.

You can read all our blogs looking at the ITP 2021 e-Learning, week by week, by clicking here.

More of our projects have moved online over the last year. Our latest legacy project, ITP Futures started this year with an online element before an eventual onsite visit. This legacy project has brought together all the ITP Senior Fellows online to discuss the future of the programme. This year we have held 12 online conversations with the Senior Fellows to discuss different elements of the ITP programme including advocacy, the UK partner programme, BM departmental time, and more.

As we did in 2020, this year we once again attended the Museum Association Annual Conference remotely. However, this year we were able to be joined by 6 ITP fellows who successfully applied for an online place. The theme of the two-day conference was Brave New World which explored how museums can change lives in a post-pandemic world and help society respond to the many challenges it faces.

The ITP fellows who attended the conference and the ITP team have been blogging about their MA Conference experience. You can read all the blogs by clicking here.

This year we have also been very happy to have been able to support ITP fellows in attending conferences and conducting research through our support grants. These grants allow the ITP to offer financial assistance to fellows to attend and participate in conferences and to conduct research which develops professional skills in the museum and heritage sector. We were thrilled to be able to support 5 ITP fellows this year to attend international conferences or conduct their professional and academic research. We have more updates to share on the results of these grants, so stay tuned for more blogs and outputs in the new year!

You can see all our blogs on this year’s support grants by clicking here.

Social media has become as important as ever to the ITP as we all aim to stay connected digitally. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the ITP blog this year. We are always happy to receive blogs from the network about a variety of topics. The highlight of ITP social media this year has to be #ITP28! In February we started a 28-day social media campaign which challenges ITP colleagues to share photos and posts every day throughout the month. Each day had its own prompt or ‘theme’ which related to heritage, museums, and the ITP.

The reaction to #ITP28 was very positive, and we saw many ITP fellows and colleagues getting involved in the challenge. You can read our report on #ITP28 by clicking here.

And finally, of course, this year we hosted another series of Online Subject Specialist Sessions for the ITP network! In February we started delivering a second series of 12 sessions, covering themes and subjects not previously discussed in our 2020 series. We expanded our speakers and session leaders to cover more parts of the ITP network, including hearing from more ITP fellows and UK programme partners. All the online sessions are recorded and will be made available to view on the ITP website in 2022.

Looking ahead, we have more plans to stay connected virtually with the ITP network. We hope to share more details of some exciting projects we are working on very soon. And we are also hoping that as the world continues to gradually reopen again, that we can reconnect physically with members of the network.

We have been working to redevelop the ITP blogsite, which will have more resources for the ITP network to access. This will include our ITP films, online session recordings and information about legacy projects. We will also be sharing a new online exhibition soon based around Object in focus which has been developed in collaboration with students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. We worked remotely with WPI this year, and you can read our blog about this project here. We are very excited to share more updates on this in the new year.

Thank you to everyone who has engaged with us this year, be it through social media, by email, or through our online sessions. We all look forward to a happy and more hopeful year to come, filled with lots more exciting ITP projects!