British Museum International Training Programme

Sponsor: British Museum IMG414421851
Sponsor Liaison: Emma Croft, Rebecca Horton, Claire Messenger
Student Team: Miguel Aranda, Patrick Bresnahan, Juan Chávez Guerrero, Amanda Sullivan
Abstract: The British Museum hosts an annual International Training Programme (ITP) to train heritage professionals from around the world on various aspects of museum operation. To foster continued learning and strengthen the global network of alumni, the ITP team desired to establish a mentoring programme. Through surveys and interviews of museum staff and ITP alumni, the IQP team confirmed interest in the mentoring programme, established the roles of mentors, and determined key training areas. The team planned a week-long training session and built materials and activities. Finally, the team set up an evaluation system for continuous improvement of the programme.
Link: IQP Final Report_British Museum ITP Mentoring
Final Presentation British Museum ITP Mentoring

Executive Summary

Every summer, the British Museum hosts an annual International Training Programme (ITP) where museum professionals from around the world go to London to train in various aspects of museum operation. Over the past ten years, the ITP has hosted over 200 participants, an extensive network of alumni across the globe. While certain participants are active in the network, applying to post-ITP programmes and writing for the newsletter, other countries have alumni who are less involved. For example, China and Sudan have 53 alumni in the ITP network, yet they do not engage actively.

To help encourage participation in the alumni network and increase preparedness of new ITP fellows, the British Museum proposed the establishment of an ITP mentoring programme. The ITP mentors will fulfill four key roles: help new ITP fellows with pre-departure and expectation management for the ITP, support and encourage participation in the network of fellows, act as advocates for the ITP in their home region, and cascade the training they received on the ITP. This mentoring programme will begin with a week-long training on mentoring skills and professional development in London.


Project Goals and Methodology

To create this programme, the team had five key objectives to fulfill. First, the team gathered information on past ITP attendees and their network participation. Afterwards, the team met with museum professionals at the British Museum and its partner museums to discuss the focus of the programme and its structure and materials. The team then surveyed and interviewed ITP fellows to determine interest in mentoring. The team interviewed ten ITP alumni from various countries to discuss the proposed mentoring roles, possible training areas, interest in participating, and feasibility. The survey to the entire alumni network attempted to capture similar information and obtained qualitative answers from 53 alumni. Once the team gathered data from the alumni and U.K. museum professionals, the creation of materials for the week-long training began. The adaptation of training materials from various sources, including the British Museum, was the strategy for rapid development of effective materials. The team created materials specially designed for ITP mentors, drawing on past experiences and knowledge of the network for inspiration. The last objective was the establishment of an evaluation system for the mentoring programme to foster its continuous improvement.



In the first week at the British Museum, the team was given a presentation on ITP statistics. There are 32 Chinese ITP alumni and 21 Sudanese alumni, yet both nations are not actively contributing to the network or getting involved in post-ITP opportunities. For example, the number of post-fellowship applications received from China and Sudan was 23 and 16, respectively, compared to Egypt’s 73 applications by 39 fellows. Furthermore, the number of ITP post-fellowship applications has declined throughout the 2013-2016 period, from 32 to 22 applications per year. Survey response rates from China and Sudan are only 22% and 24% compared to a 50% overall response rate for the same survey.

The team learned about Red Zone countries, which have not had an ITP participant for the past five years and limited participation in the ITP network. Of the three yearly ITP newsletters that have been published, 14 countries have participated, but only three of them have been Red Zone countries. The total number of articles has been 66, with just six coming from the Red Zone countries.

The meetings with museum staff were sources of many ideas for the structure and materials for the training programme, including recruitment and training methods. Discussion of the recruitment process for the Knowledge Exchange Programme (which organizes professional exchanges between the British Museum and other museums) and the British Museum’s mentoring programme, highlighted the importance of proper recruitment: participants excited about their role will usually perform better. Besides, having permission from fellows’ institutions was pointed out as a factor that could affect the success of the mentoring programme. What these established programmes did in order to attract participants was not an elaborate marketing strategy, listing the benefits that participation has for both an individual and the people around them can make both participants and their supervisors realize the importance of participation.

Due to the importance of proper instruction of mentors, training methods were discussed in all meetings with museum staff. A common theme that arose from the interviews was learning by doing, interactive activities to engage the mentors. Learning by doing has various forms, including role playing, discussion sessions, icebreakers and presentations. Sue Giles from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery suggested a few role playing exercises based on her experience. Furthermore, Fiona West of Human Resources gave examples of the role playing activities in which British Museum mentors participate. Finally, Ronan Brindley of Manchester Art Gallery explained a few interactive activities, including learning sets (groups that gather to present and discuss about a particular topic), icebreakers that fostered presentation skills, and art discussions led by volunteers at Manchester Art Gallery.

Through the use of surveys and interviews, the team was able to confirm the interest in the mentoring programme, and the most important training areas. All ten interviewees said that the mentoring programme would be very useful for them. One stated that the mentoring programme would increase their knowledge and increase their networking opportunities.

Most survey responses (94%) reported that helping new ITP participants was important as a mentoring responsibility. The suggestions for areas to help the new fellows included financial advice, managing homesickness, culture shock, and ITP expectations. A participant described the process of getting through the ITP in the following manner:

“In the beginning you get culture shock, ‘How do I get around London?’ ‘How do I do this and that?’ […] as the training goes along the problems change: participants might become sick, or get homesick or fatigued.”

Survey responses revealed this was very important (45%) or extremely important (49%).

All of the interviewees thought supporting the ITP alumni network was an important and worthwhile role. Four of the interviewees mentioned that they have kept in touch or collaborated with people from the network, even though it was not specifically addressed in the questions. One of the interviewees said that past ITP attendees should be involved in the network both professionally and intellectually, to create a “resource exchange” in which the mentor is a moderator. The most popular survey response was very important (47%).

Furthermore, all interviewees thought promoting the ITP was also a valuable aspect of the mentoring programme; three of them had already done that kind of work before. All interviewees said that mentors should be involved in the first step in the ITP recruitment process. This was the role with the perceived highest importance in the survey; 51% of respondents said extremely important, while 39% thought advocating was very important.

Finally, all interviewees thought cascading training was important. One of them had been involved in the Kenya Heritage Training Institute. Another gives yearly lectures to her students regarding the ITP, and one more gave a presentation to his colleagues when he came back from the ITP, stating that his museum’s policy was “whatever I had learned I had to also tell.”

The training areas of interest to interviewees were team building and management, presentation skills, time management, leadership training, coaching, project management, marketing, communication skills, and course development. Of the eight ITP alumni interviewed, three mentioned presentation skills as important, while two mentioned marketing and leadership training as important for mentor training.

In the survey, the three most popular areas for the mentoring training were team management, presentation skills, and mentoring skills; at least 40 survey participants out of 53 said they were important. Some of the survey takers suggested other training areas to incorporate, including workshop creation and network building.

Of the 53 survey takers, 44 either strongly or somewhat agreed to being a mentor, while only one strongly disagreed to being a mentor. The surveys revealed that 78% of respondents would have found a mentor for the ITP either very or extremely useful. None said it would not have been useful at all.

We were able to create materials based on the results of the surveys and the interviews. The interview and survey responses helped shape the content of the training materials. Some of the materials created included workshop presentations, a handbook, and training activities. There are ten presentations for the mentor training week, interactive training activities which include role playing scenarios, group work, discussions, and presentation practice. The handbook was developed to be read in parallel to the workshops, but included more detail, examples, and discussion of techniques and objectives. On the other hand, a portion of the materials was created from scratch, including the examples in the presentation skills workshop. In addition, the mentoring role playing activities were brainstormed by the team to be appropriate for ITP alumni.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the findings and discussions, the team was able to determine that there was an interest in a mentoring programme, and that the ITP has good mentor candidates. Therefore, the team recommended that the British Museum implement the mentoring programme and use the training materials developed for the associated training. The training materials were left in a shared Dropbox folder with specific instructions on delivery. Once the programme is implemented, the mentors should be actively encouraged to help out their mentees and promote communication within the ITP alumni network. The team recommended evaluating the programme in a yearly manner. Furthermore, informal feedback, including discussions with the mentors, could be conducted to allow the ITP staff to gain further insight into possible areas of improvement.

This project has limitations which should be considered when reviewing its findings and recommendations. A small sample of ITP alumni were interviewed, and the number of survey responses was close to a quarter of the alumni population. Therefore, the team cannot be fully certain that the conclusions are representative of the entire network. It is possible that only the most eager fellows responded to the survey and skewed the data. During the interviews, there were issues with Internet connection and the language barrier. Presumably, if the interviews were conducted in their native tongue, the results could have been clearer. With more time dedicated to the creation of the mentoring programme, there could perhaps be more survey responses to guide the development of more effective training materials and programme structure. The team will not oversee the implementation of the mentoring programme to guarantee appropriate use of the materials. Future researchers into the mentor programme could conduct more interviews with the alumni and attend an alumni event to obtain more feedback.