By Suzie Thomas.
In May 2018, University of Helsinki had a first. A course on Museum Security ran for the first time, and as a joint course with Laurea University of Applied Sciences, it also represented a first ever teaching collaboration with that particular institution. Teachers responsible were Suzie Thomas from the University, and Anssi Kuusela, Reijo Lähde and Soili Martikainen from Laurea University.
The course was open to students of Museum Studies from Helsinki, to students of Safety, Security and Risk Management from Laurea, and also to students of the Open University.
In many ways the course was a pilot, presenting challenges for the teachers to provide content that was relevant and usable for students from quite different backgrounds, including a large representation of international students. We covered themes such as insurance, handling touring exhibitions, and developing risk assessments for museums. We visited sites with particular security needs such as the Seurasaari Open Air Museum and the National Museum of Finland’s collection store in Vantaa.
The students were encouraged to work together with each other for several of the assignments, and we took care to make sure that everyone worked with someone from a different institution to their own.
We had some very positive experiences on the course, and as teachers we were very impressed and happy with the ways that the students collaborated together, and that the guest lecturers all provided important and fascinating information to enhance the course. Given the sensitive nature of security issues and questions, we are very grateful for the positivity of museum professionals and others to contribute. There were obviously certain aspects of security practice that museums couldn’t discuss with the students, but we wouldn’t have expected anything different.
We also met challenges however, and it was clear that certain aspects of the course were more useful to students from one discipline than from another. Student feedback also pointed to areas where we might look to add more detail in the future, and we know that some of the delivery would be smoother in the future, now that we have the experience of running the course one time already. Almost all the students rated the collaboration between Helsinki and Laurea as “extremely positive” in their feedback, which is good news for taking this course forward and developing it further.
In the end, the course – which was possibly unique – owes a lot to the contributing guest lecturers and also to the students for coming with an open mind and a willingness to engage with this important topic.