A college, inside a museum…during a pandemic

Lockdown has been difficult for everyone. During this time, despite being closed to the public, it has been very important to our Manchester Museum to be able to keep our doors open to support the learners and staff at Project Inc., the Specialist College for Creative Education, who have been based at the Museum since September 2019.

James, one of our learners, explains what it means to him: “Project Inc. is giving young people an education when many places have had to close. It has provided autistic people, like me, structure to our week after months stuck in lockdown. Four days in the museum studying is a helpful routine for us, gives us something to wake up for every day. The routine helps me to feel calmer in general.”

‘Vulnerability’ has been much discussed during the pandemic, often in terms of social, economic and wider issues that don’t necessarily pertain to the SEND students who learn with Project Inc. However, uncertainty and change have meant that the neurodiverse young people for whom the College specialises, have been particularly vulnerable in terms of their mental health and wellbeing during lockdown. Therefore, the consistency and connection of space and place that Project Inc. has been able to provide in the Museum has been vital, and this partnership is something that we are all exceptionally proud of.

Project Inc. have long recognised the potential of cultural venues as captivating spaces that inspire awe and wonder. The Museum provides an innovative and creative learning environment, which maximises students’ learning.

Lisa Alberti, College Lead at Projecy Inc, said: “At Manchester Museum innovation in education is happening. Project Inc. Specialist College has its flagship Creative Learning Studio within the iconic and forward thinking museum. A synergy of beliefs, values and direction, with a focus on inclusion and widening participation makes for a powerful partnership approach. The outcome is a purposeful and alternative pathway into cultural sector careers, for neurodiverse young people.

As well as the cultural benefits of this learning environment, the base in the Museum has also become a vital space for engagement, interaction, belonging and support for Project Inc.’s sometimes vulnerable young people. It has become an essential social element of the students’ lives. This partnership approach between the cultural and educational sectors has enabled the development of an innovative model of supporting through inclusivity. Project Inc. have worked hard, particularly over the last 12 months, in consultation with parents, students, and professionals to get it right for the young people.

Manchester Museum’s exciting £13.5 million capital transformation project ‘hello future’, opening in late 2022, will include a host of new spaces as we aim to become the most imaginative, caring and inclusive museum you might encounter. The combination of the Museum’s values with the purposeful learning pathway developed by Project Inc. shows what can be done, when we work in the true spirit of collaboration.

This partnership approach with Project Inc. has been recognised at The University of Manchester, being shortlisted for the Widening Participation Award at the Making a Difference Awards 2021.

Read more about Project Inc.