Laureen Deere Visits Berlin and Copenhagen

Lauren Deere is the Museum Manager of Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum and was formerly the Visitor Experience Manager for Birmingham Museums Trust. The role of Museum Manager is varied and enables Lauren to contribute to all aspects of museum operations from facilities to exhibitions and to her passion, which is creating engaging learning experiences within the Museum’s galleries.  Lauren is currently leading a project group developing a new permanent under 7s gallery in the Museum which is due to open in autumn 2017. A Brummie born and bred, Lauren is proud to showcase Birmingham’s fascinating scientific past and present through her work.

About Lauren's Trip

I decided early on when planning my oversees visit that I wanted to link the research into leadership and resilience with a masterplanning project that we are embarking on at Thinktank. I therefore opted to visit a site which had recently completed a refurbishment and a site which is half way through a major redevelopment. I wanted to find out the reasons why the organisations decided to invest in the changes and how the redevelopments are affecting their resilience.

Spectrum Science Centre, Deutsches Technikmuseum, Berlin

The Spectrum Science Centre is the oldest Science Centre in Germany and has a strong legacy of designing exhibits to explain physical science phenomenon. The Science Centre is part of a large cultural attraction in the city of Berlin, the Deutsches Technikmuseum, which includes a large museum hosting an impressive transport and technology collection along with a historic windmill and a watermill.  

During my visit I met with Christian Neuert, Head of Spectrum, and we discussed the reopening of the site in 2013 following a complete overhaul of the both the historic building site and also the interactive exhibits. Christian Neuert’s background provided him with all of the necessary skills to not only oversee the management of the project but also the design and build of the exhibits which make up the galleries. Many of the exhibits were designed and build in house by a team of technicians. This access to in-house expertise has allowed the Deutsches Technikmuseum to redevelop the whole site for a relatively small cost of 2.3 Million Euros and will enable them to maintain the exhibits in a sustainable manner long term.  

As part of a larger cultural organisation, Spectrum benefits from centralised services like HR, Finance and security reducing overheads and enabling the science centre to function with very few permanent staff, creating a resilient organisational structure. However I couldn’t help but feel that the relationship with the much larger, well know transport and technology museum, may mean that the growth and investment in the Science Centre in the future would always be limited in comparison. That the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and managing the impressive collection and heritage sites would be prioritised over continued development of the science centre offer.

In addition to learning about their redevelopment I found it fascinating to find out more about the sources of funding available to cultural organisations in German states including the role that local lottery schemes play in providing operational funding along with money to cover capital costs.

Experimentarium Science Centre, Copenhagen

The Experimentarium has been open since 1991 and remains Denmark’s only Science Centre.

The organisation is currently undergoing a £40 million redevelopment of their site, which was once a Turburg bottling factory.  During the redevelopment project, which is due to finish in 2016, they have relocated a proportion of their exhibits to a temporary city centre location. This has enabled them to maintain access to their exhibits, continue their brand and retain an income. The large scale redevelopment included a design competition to recruit the architect to oversee the transformation of the mineral water bottling factory into a 4 storey exhibition and education centre.

During my visit I met with the CEO of Experimentarium, Kim Gladstone Herlev, who was wonderfully open and honest about both the opportunities and challenges that the redevelopment has created, and is continuing to create for their organisation. The most memorable example was the story of a fire which struck their building site earlier this year. The story highlighted the individual resilience that is required from leaders in times of adversity and that sometimes you have to celebrate the crash.

Learning

Whilst planning my visit I believed that the main focus of my research trip would be around the financial impact of the redevelopments and the financial resilience of organisations. I was therefore surprised that I was most inspired by the impact the redevelopments have had on relationships between individuals within an organisation and I was personally most affected by the stories of individual resilience.

I also learnt...

  • That is pays to be focussed – as an individual and as an organisation

  • You need someone to push you the last few steps of the stairs (of your career)

  • I enjoy experiences which are ‘finurlig’. A Danish word which doesn’t have a direct translation into English but which means to be different, funny and surprising, but also much more than that.