Making Museums

Of Growth, Form and Meaning
Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen, On Growth & Forms of Meaning, 2010

Making Museums: Place & Politics symposium + Helmsdale: Museum for a Day
Helmsdale | 10 + 11 March 2017

Geography, people and politics can determine how we create the museums of today.

Making Museums takes this provocation as a starting point for a two-day programme co-curated with The Museum of Loss and Renewal, a mobile platform initiated by the artists Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen.

On Friday, we will host Making Museums | Place & Politics, a symposium focusing on the role of museums in response to socio-geographic and political contexts. We would like to invite museum professionals, artists, historians, academics, curators, researchers, and interested others to discuss how specific geographies and publics shape the methodologies we apply in a museum, what practices and values we share irrespective of place, and what active role museums can or should take with regards to politics.

The second day of the programme – Helmsdale: Museum for a Day – asks what happens when we think beyond the walls of the traditional museum space and imagine our village as museum, inviting our visitors and community to explore its collections and histories anew.

Timespan’s current museum redevelopment provides a grounding context for both days.

Thursday 9 March | Making Museums Welcome Buffet | 19.30

A first opportunity to come together, to meet and talk over good food provided by Timespan’s Riverside Cafe.

Friday 10 March | Making Museums: Place & Politics Symposium | 10.00 – 17.00

The day’s programme includes a keynote presentation positioning museums as active agents, a roundtable on collections, a series of exploration sessions offering the opportunity to delve deeper into some of the issues at hand, and a provocation session on migration and museums. The day will be framed through The Museum of Loss and Renewal.

Contributions will come from a range of museum professionals, academics, and artists including Danielle Kuijten of Imagine IC, Netherlands Dr. Emma Martin, Lecturer in Museology at Manchester University and Curator at the World Museum, Liverpool, Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad, designer, Christine Millar, The McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum  Amanda Crabtree, co-director at artconnexion, Lille,  and Alison Scott, Timespan’s current Graduate Fellow.

Performative punctuations by Lada Wilson will activate a series of objects from Timespan’s own collection, selected by our co-curators. The day’s activities will be documented by Tracy Mackenna performing the role of “creative correspondent”.

Agenda for the day.

Tickets for the symposium and Friday night dinner can be booked through eventbrite.

Saturday 11 March | Helmsdale: Museum for a Day | 10.00 – 16.00

On Saturday, we invite you to explore our village as a museum with a programme of tours, workshops, talks and activities, as well as self-led explorations. Guided tours will make the histories visible in the surrounding landscapes and seascapes. Local businesses will become hosts to objects from our own collection, re-situating items into contemporary sites linked to their own pasts.

Students from the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design MFA Art, Society & Publics course will present their “New Collections for Timespan”, developed responsively over 3 days in Helmsdale, guided by Amanda Crabtree.

The day will also include the launch of the new Helmsdale Map, a publication and fold-out map of Helmsdale which encourages an exploration of Helmsdale as a layered site, with written contributions across arts, heritage, archaeology, and geology. The publication is both a response to last year’s theme of Re-writing Histories as well as a celebration of the locality as part of Timespan’s 30th anniversary.

Agenda for the day.

Hospitality is important to us
: You will have the chance to meet and talk over delicious food provided by the Whaligoe Steps Cafe and our own Riverside Cafe. The symposium ticket includes lunch, teas and coffees on Friday, and a welcome buffet on Thursday evening.

On Friday evening, the Whaligoe Steps Cafe will provide a delicious meal open to all (£10.00) and on Saturday the Riverside Cafe will offer a special lunch deal.

The Museum of Loss and Renewal

The Museum of Loss and Renewal was initiated in 2011 by the artists Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen, and reflects their interest in artist-led curatorial practice. It is a mobile platform that creates space for sharing experiences and enables the consideration of how to lead a more balanced life.

Merging production, education and research this autarchic museum manifests itself in multiple forms such as exhibitions, public studios, screenings, residencies and publications. These activities frequently incorporate interdisciplinary public gatherings and discursive activities that bring together a diverse range of publics.

The art projects that Tracy and Edwin develop as part of The Museum of Loss and Renewal often grow out of partnerships with others and address issues of societal concern such as wellbeing, end of life and sustainability. Key questions evolve around social relationships; the way places are inhabited and how personal objects reflect who we are.


Timespan is a cultural development organisation and a creative hub in Helmsdale, Sutherland. We provide a high quality venue and programme for people locally, nationally and internationally. We build partnerships and collaborate with researchers, artists, audiences and participants of all ages and backgrounds to preserve, sustain, celebrate and amplify the culture of our place.

Travel and accommodation

Timespan is within 5 minutes walk to Helmsdale’s bus stop and train station, and we have our own car park.

Why not make a weekend trip out of your visit? Helmsdale is on the North Coast 500, the John O’Groats to Lands End cycle route, and the newly established John o’Groats walking trail. Make your way inland to the heart of Sutherland or explore Caithness’ stunning North coast.


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