ICOM, set up by the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) , established a committee in each member country, and in addition created seven specialist sections. Section 7 was titled Children's Museums and Activities.
The Children's Section of the International Committee of Museums in the UK
Journal of Education in Museums 1, published in 1980. The article entitled 'Museum education 1948 - 1963' was written by a previous GEM Chair Barbara Winstanley.
The year 1948 is also mentioned by Eilean Hooper-Greenhill in her comprehensive and readable history of museum education.
The article reports on a meeting held of members of the Museums Association. 'The meeting was called for the purpose of organising a proposed Group of interested members who wish to co-operate and discuss some of the problems and methods used for children's work'.
The idea came from the Curator of Horsfall Museum, Mr Currall, and Sir Harry Lindsay. The aims were to hold two meetings a year, compile a Directory of Children's Activities in the British Isles and provide a newsletter for interested individuals.
Directory of Children's Activities in the British Isles
The appearance of two groups of individuals: members of the Museums Association (principally curators) and those from a broader educational world gathered together by Peter Floud (V&A and ICOM). After three years of discussions, the two groups amalgamated and became known as the Group for Children's Activities in Museums with Floud as Chair and Jacqueline Palmer as Secretary.
Group for Children's Activities in Museums
At least 42 participants took part in the AGM
10th Anniversary of the GEM's foundation
"the Group, among other activities, arranges meetings at different centres in the country where there are well organised museum educational services, and from time to time holds conferences on topics related to the use of museums in education."
GESM worked alongside the Area Museum Councils (AMCs), for example in the South West concerning loans services. This was a particular area of expertise for many of the members who ran such services, e.g. Reading, Derbyshire and Cardiff. A small group was set up to look at creating a purchasing scheme to enable members to buy or order stock in bulk. Again GESM worked with the Midland AMC by contributing to a working party on the need for an education advisory panel.
Group for Education Services in Museums (GESM)
At the beginning of the 1970s the Group involved with publications and surveys. The Department of Education and Science published "Pterodactyls and Old Lace" on the use of museums by schools and refers to the work of the Group.
The first reference to the regional groups and to the size of the Group as a whole (57 institutional members and 38 individual members).
GESM was keen to be involved with school curriculum matters and attended meetings with the Schools Council, which was looking at dynamic and innovative teaching methods and approaches.
One result of this work was the creation in 1979 of a CSE Mode 3 syllabus being set up at the National Portrait Gallery, with pupils preparing project work on the curatorial aspects
of gallery work as well as the collections themselves.
Influencing the school curriculum
Exploring the loan collections at GEM Conference 1960 in Reading
On a national level, the early |980s saw the political atmosphere changing, particularly on employment (or unemployment) issues. GEM contributed to the debate on Adult Unemployment and the setting up of MSC (Manpower Services Commission) schemes in museums and on archaeological and heritage sites. It rallied to the defence of members and their education services under threat such as Hereford and Worcester, Birmingham and Somerset.
Group for Education in Museums
First edition of JEM, Journal of Education in Museums
Alison James was the Convenor of the Freelance Network. It had 60 members in October 1997. Various information sheets were published by GEM including : “Starting Out”, “Choosing a Museum Education Consultant” and “Insurance and Public Liability”. The group met at GEM conferences to network about such matters as fees, training, accounts, tax, marketing and liaised with a parallel group at the Museums Association where Rachel Hasted carried out research into the growing trend for employing freelancers and consultants in 1995. I don't know if either are still going .
GEM Freelance Network established
At the 1999 Annual General Meeting it was decided to move towards changing the organisation and constitution of GEM to a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. It was also agreed, in principle, to appoint a paid member of staff to undertake as yet to be specified duties for GEM. This was confirmed at the 2000 AGM, with Articles of Association and Memorandum approved.
Project groups established: Membership, Conference & Training, Area Convenors, Publications, Procedures
350 subscribers in a year since the launch.
From the GEM News:
The GEM Support Office (GSO) is now open and able to deal with:
- Renewal of subscriptions
- Applications from new members
- Conference bookings
- National Training Day bookings
- Orders for Publications
- Orders for ads and inserts in the eNews
- Invoices and payments
- General queries
First GEM Support Office (GSO) opened
First GEM Case Studies & eNews
First edition of GEM Case Studies, 2008
One to One Mentoring and free membership
To support the museum learning community during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, GEM launched free membership for freelancers and a One to One mentoring programme, free for all members.
GEM launched a number of online training sessions and converted a lot of its courses in a virtual format
The Conference was attended by more than 250 delegates.
First hybrid GEM Conference 2022
GEM started its journey as an IPSO, supporting the museum learning sector, enabling dialogue and collaboration, and addressing challenges.
GEM – Arts Council's Investment Principles Support Organisation (IPSO)