Andy Mabbet - Gallery Camp By Andy Mabbett

GalleryCamp is coming. What’s that? An unconference. In a gallery. For people who work at, for, or with art galleries and related organisations. With an emphasis on future digital and technology developments.

Let’s unpick some of that. We all know what an art gallery is. Some call them art museums. Places which collect, curate, research, document, display and, sometimes, commission or sell works of art. Last year, we had traditional galleries and museums, with collections of old masters. We had contemporary art studios. And we had commercial galleries, who will sell you something nice to put on your wall at home.

And related organisations? In 2013, we were joined by freelance curators, art journalists, students, academics, restorers, archivists and, of course, both traditional and digital artists. People from across the broader arts, creative, culture, heritage and supporting  sectors, too.

In fact, anyone who self-defines as having an interest in art galleries, and their use of digital tools and technology, by way of hobby or profession (but note my caveat about selling, below). The definitions are deliberately loose, and the invitation inclusive. All are welcome.

If you’ve ever been to a professional conference, you’ll know the drill  some interesting presentations, and some deadly dull PowerPoint presentations, with too many words on each slide, read (literally, read to you, as though you were too stupid, or not trusted, to do so for yourself) by someone who sounds as though they don’t want to be there. And — thankfully — some coffee breaks. Breaks where you can catch up with your peers, share tips and contacts, sympathise over shared problems, and brainstorm ideas.

In an unconference, we try to capture the best of that, and discard the rest. With no agenda, save for a blank timetable, we invite everyone (and we mean everyone: no participant is more important than another) to suggest topics for discussion. These can be case studies of best practice, collaborative project proposals for consideration, or appeals for help and advice. I’ll be helping with that part.

And then we allocate rooms and timeslots, sometimes grouping like suggestions together if necessary. Finally, everyone gets to go to the sessions they want, and miss those they don’t. No one tells you where to go. There are spare spaces if you just want to sit with colleagues and have a chat. And there will be no PowerPoint. And no selling. (People who simply try to pitch products or services, without joining in discussion, may be humoured. But they usually find no-one is buying.)

Sounds awful doesn’t it? No agenda. No keynote speakers. No one in charge. Obviously, it can never work.

Except it does. People who come to their first unconference usually want to come to another. Feedback comments always indicate that people have found their time to have been spent well. They make new contacts, they learn. They teach, even if they arrived thinking that they had nothing to give. Because the trick to getting the most out of an unconference is to share your knowledge, or your questions. Give, and what you give is returned. That may sound glib, but trust me, and I promise you’ll find it’s true.

For more practical tips, if you’ve never been to an unconference before, see my post, “Tips for Unconference newbies“.

Book Now
For more information and to register for your free ticket, visit the Gallerycamp14 Eventbrite page –

Andy Mabbett, FRSA (@pigsonthewing), is a freelance consultant, and has been Wikipedian in Residence at a number of galleries, museums and other institutions. And has facilitated a lot of unconferences.

About The Author

Editor at large of Polaroids and Polar Bears, PR bod and not-so-secret geek. Chris established Polaroids and Polar Bears in 2013.