Lockdown lessons open new doors for cultural charity OnFife

8th July 2021

Cultural charity OnFife has pledged to build on the success of initiatives it developed to support local communities during lockdown.

The charity’s new Head of Cultural Heritage & Wellbeing says the pandemic has affirmed the vital role libraries, museums and archives can play in helping to improve people’s wellbeing.

Christine McLean says Covid restrictions have enabled the organisation to connect with audiences in new and imaginative ways and the experience is now informing its future strategy.

The former Heritage Manager at Renfrewshire Leisure believes these new ways of engaging can be as much about showing people you care as they are about culture.

Libraries staff who regularly phoned older customer during lockdown to check they were okay is a shining example of such an approach, says Christine.

So too is OnFife’s hosting of three artists’ residencies to reach out to groups who, because of Covid-19, face barriers to accessing key resources.

“OnFife already does amazing work connecting with local people,” reflects Christine. “As we move out of lockdown, it’s an opportunity to grow our activities in the realm of community wellbeing.

“The cultural sector is changing. We are working more efficiently, partly because of the pandemic, and using technology that is enabling us to collaborate with more people in creative ways.

“The sector is engaging with a range of contemporary issues such as tackling poverty, racism and discrimination and a concern for people’s health and wellbeing is a key part of that.”

Christine was at Renfrewshire Leisure three years, leading teams through massive change.

Before Renfrewshire, Christine led National Museums Scotland on community engagement and outreach, having previously performed the same role with Glasgow’s Open Museum.

It was school trips to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and childhood visits to historic buildings and ancient monuments that first whetted Christine’s cultural appetite.

A Masters in Heritage Management at the University of Birmingham followed a degree at the University of Glasgow, which included History of Art and Archaeology.

“Ultimately,” says Christine, “I'm interested in the stories objects can tell about people and places, and how museums and galleries affect us in different ways – as places to relax, reflect and heal.”

“I feel lucky to be working with OnFife. Our galleries, archives and museums are dynamic places run by friendly, knowledgeable staff who are keen to entice people to come and explore and be inspired.”

Christine succeeds Dallas Mechan, who retired last month.

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