International Training Programme Collaborators


Sponsor: The British Museum  IMG_9921
Sponsor Liaison: Rebecca Horton
Student Team:

Edward Crofts

Ryan Cudemus-Brunoli

Jessica Hanley

Sarah McKeage

Abstract: The British Museum’s International Training Programme (ITP) has educated museum professionals from 39 countries. To improve the ITP and its interaction with alumni, we evaluated the ITP’s gender composition, improved communication, standardized the professional titles of ITP fellows, and created a directory of comparable museum training programs, an improved network directory, blog content, systems for updating ITP biographies and classifying professional identities, and a report detailing suggestions for the ITP.



Executive Summary

The increasing professionalization of museums has created a demand for programs that educate museum workers on the best practices of the professional world. The British Museum, a world-renowned institution with 6.4 million visitors per year, answered the demand for museum professional training programs with its International Training Programme in 2006 (TEA, 2016).

The ITP seeks to train and educate museum professionals in their early to mid-career from museums who have less access to ongoing museum training. This project analyzed the ITP’s alumni demographics and suggested improvements to communication within the network and to the Programme as a whole based upon an examination of comparable programs in the heritage sector.

We assessed the structure, composition, and functions of the ITP in terms of professional identities, gender composition, and communications, and we identified defining characteristics of the ITP by reviewing the ITP’s internal documents, analyzing data from a survey, interviewing fellows, sending personalized emails out to fellows, and analyzing application data. To characterize and analyze the composition of the Programme’s 253 past participants, the team reviewed raw data provided by the ITP’s internal documents from 2006 to 2018 and later in the survey.

We assessed the professional identities of the Programme through the standardization of the job titles of the fellows and we created a document outlining the common responsibilities held by certain professions. This expedites the application process and placement within the Programme by avoiding the confusing variation amongst job titles.

The survey included a question we created that elucidated possible causes for the ITP’s current gender composition. While the first question examined the overall gender composition of institutions that currently employ ITP alumni, our group expanded upon the results of this survey through personalized emails that sought to determine the gender composition of entry-level and management positions at these institutions. Additionally, our team examined possible bias within the admission process of the Programme by analyzing the Egyptian applicant pool’s gender composition from 2016 and 2017 and identified discrepancies between the applicant pool and the Programme’s Egyptian alumni. The potential bias shown in the discrepancies between the overall gender composition of the Programme’s Egyptian alumni and the applicant pool could be a cause for the ITP’s tendency to accept mostly women into the Programme.

We grouped survey responses by workplace, the year a fellow joined the ITP, a fellow’s home country and analyzed the trends in communication within these groups. We looked for areas that contained strong and weak communication experiences amongst the fellows in these groups and theorized their possible causes.

Regarding professional identities, we found that “curator” is the most popular job title among ITP fellows, with 35% of incoming fellows using this title. When we looked at keywords that ITP fellows used, we found that most ITP curators described their jobs by using buzzwords like “exhibition,” “research,” and “planning” to describe their job’s responsibilities. We also identified nine other important job titles of past participants including archivist, director, coordinator, and education officer.

When we looked at the overall gender composition within the institutions that ITP fellows came from, we found that these institutions tended to have more women than men. The higher proportion of women in ITP fellows’ workplaces offers partial insight into the unbalanced gender ratio. Looking further into the topic, management positions at ITP fellow workplaces possessed nearly equal amounts of men and women. Unlike the management positions, the entry-level positions skew towards either being equal or mostly women. Interestingly, the gender ratio within ITP applicant pools from Egypt (the only application data we had access to) was approximately equal, whereas those the Programme admitted were predominately women.

To analyze communication, we identified areas of the ITP that had either more or less survey responses. People who joined the ITP in 2013 and 2009 seemed to have less contact with the ITP than others, whereas people who joined the ITP in 2008 and 2012 had higher communication rates than others. ITP fellows who were Chinese nationals had the lowest amount of communication with the ITP (in proportion to their representation within the network) because of the Chinese government’s social media restrictions. The top three institutions that ITP fellows come from are the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), National Museum of China, and Sudan National Museum. These institutions had survey response rates of 30%, 0%, and 25% respectively. As expected, the lowest response rate came from museums like the National Museum of China, located in China.

To find areas of improvement within the ITP, we researched similar training programs that ranged from international to in-house. We compared the gender composition of other programs to the ITP We also compiled a directory of comparable training programs by pulling information from the ITP survey, follow up emails, interviews, and materials posted on the web by museums and professional organizations. From these sources, we gathered information such as the number of participants, the gender ratios, and the countries in which the programs operate.

For data that is not publicly available, we collected the contact information of any museums or programs we required further information from to complete the museum training directory. We reached out to some of these programs directly but found that contacting ITP fellows who had previously participated in them proved quicker and more reliable.

When we analyzed comparable training programs, our group found a significant amount of diversity in the structure of these programs. Some programs take more traditional academic styles and teach participants in a classroom format, some move away from tradition and focus on hands-on experiential learning for curation and study, while other programs mix the two styles. While the professions of participants may vary in other programs, we found that the desire to stay in touch was a common theme among many programs. Most participants from other training programs cited Facebook as their most popular means of communication with email as their second most popular means of communication, with many noting that email lacks the same social capabilities as Facebook.

When we looked at the overall gender ratio within other museum training programs, our data supported our hypothesis that the industry employs more women than men. Thus, the ITP is not the only museum training program with these gender trends, which supports that these trends occur naturally in the museum and heritage sector and are not necessarily caused by bias.

From our research, we developed a set of deliverables: an improved network directory, a directory of global training initiatives, blog content, a system for updating ITP biographies, a system for classifying professional identities, and a report detailing possible improvements to the ITP.

Since the ITP currently struggles to fully engage its Chinese fellows through social media due to Chinese governmental restrictions, our team sought to provide a recommendation to the ITP on the best alternatives to their most common platforms: Facebook and their WordPress blog. To make these recommendations, our group researched the social media environment in China, attended a presentation from a Chinese social media team, and created a report detailing the benefits and drawbacks of the two most common platforms, WeChat and Weibo (pronounced way-bo).

We created other deliverables: an application form and a chart intended to assist the ITP’s application paperwork system. The form asks ITP applicants their job details and responsibilities, allowing the ITP to internally categorize applicants under job titles reflecting their responsibilities. This will enable the ITP to easily categorize the professional identities of fellows in the future.

We updated and contributed to a network directory of all the ITP alumni in a format suitable for the purposes of the WordPress blog. We sent the biographies of ITP alumni to their respective subjects and asked these alumni to update the biography as they saw fit. This aided the communication aspect of our project as having easy access to current contact and professional information bolsters the Programme’s initiative to improve museums.

The ITP wishes to actively communicate with its network without sending fellows  impersonal, standardized emails. When tasked with sending personalized emails to 139 of the 253 ITP fellows, our team came up with a system to effectively communicate with these fellows. This system involved a computer program to separate fellow biographies, seven situational email templates, and a spreadsheet for determining which email a fellow should receive. The templates factored in whether a candidate had recently been interviewed or surveyed, what their responses to the survey were, and their preferred name.

Our team built upon the existing alumni database to provide an improved network directory which consolidated information from survey responses, emails, and internal documents. This directory contains biographies for each fellow and current contact information. To streamline the process of creating, approving, and organizing these 253 biographies, our team created a system that the ITP can use to simplify the process of emailing these biographies for approval from fellows.

With the information collected about similar training programs, our team created a directory of global training initiatives. This directory details extensive information on many different programs throughout the world and enabled us to compare the ITP to other programs and make suggestions. The directory is a standardized spreadsheet that facilitates the comparison of the ITP to other programs. Certain columns contain keywords to easily sort the programs. For example, the column “eligibility” shows whether a program accepts applicants nationally, internationally or within restricted regions. We also tabulated several notable statistics such as the number of participants, funding, and gender ratio.

Before our system for standardizing emails, a single person could send out approximately 2-5 emails an hour. If the ITP implements our system, between 15-25 emails could be sent out in an hour, increasing efficiency by a factor of 3 to 12.5. This method met our goal of improving communication by creating an efficient means of mass-emailing fellows without making the emails feel impersonal and automated.

Overall, the British Museum’s International Training Programme is one of the most effective programs of its kind in the museum sector. This being said, there are several areas of interest and refinement to consider. The ITP wants to assess possible causes for the high female participation in the program and whether or not it should address the imbalance. Through our research, we found that the museum sector as a whole, and especially entry-level positions, which the Programme actively recruits from, is mostly women. While we suggest that the admissions team at the ITP be aware of a potential bias preferring women, we do not believe that the current gender trends are unique to the ITP.

In terms of communication, the ITP uses current best practices to communicate with most of its fellows. While existing communication with the network is very effective, the ITP should pay special attention to the years, institutions, and countries that have lower than expected survey response rates. For effectively communicating with Chinese fellows, our team suggests that the ITP explore using WeChat, a common means of communication in China. To further help communication within the network, we standardized professional identities and created a system for fellow biographies that will help the ITP’s application process. By considering all of these suggestions, the ITP can refine its already strong program.