Implementing the Research Policy
This strategy, and the process of implementing it will form an integral part of the Museum’s Development Plan and annual Operational Plan.
1. The immediate context
1.1 Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales celebrates its centenary in 2007. In preparation for this, we spent much of 2005 engaged in a major process of redefining and consulting on our role for our second century. Out of this process emerged our Vision to create a world-class museum of learning, and to share a commitment with our sponsoring body, the Welsh Assembly Government, to strengthen Wales’s cultural identity, and contribute to UK and international agendas.
1.2 The Museum operates on several sites, comprising a ‘family’ of seven museums and one collection centre, each with special interests and features and located across Wales. Our extensive collections (of over 4.7m objects or groups) include important holdings in archaeology, art, biodiversity geology, and social and industrial history. We employ over 130 curators and conservators to develop, research and care for these collections.
1.3 Our agreed Vision priorities for the next 10 years are to
- Create living museums
- Develop flourishing collections
- Find paths to make sense of the world
- Learn through sharing
- Grow through learning; and
- Build our resources
1.4 These priorities include major developments on the ground. Creating living museums involves developing three new entities over the next 5-15 years, namely a
- National History and Archaeology Museum at St Fagans,
- National Gallery, as part of the National Museum Cardiff,
- Natural History Museum, as the other part.
1.5 These programmes are costly, and demand not only capital developments but also major realignment of existing buildings, displays and public spaces. However, over the past decade we have successfully completed a £49m Industrial Strategy which has:
- reinvigorated three of our existing industrial museums (through capital redevelopment and reinterpretation),
- seen the opening of a brand-new major museum in partnership with the City & County of Swansea, and
- created a new reserve store for collections, with facilities for conservation and for enabling the movement of collections to support changing displays on different Museum sites.
1.6 Intermediate steps to progress the three priorities for major development include new displays at National Museum Cardiff to show contemporary art and present historical and recent art in a different way; creating spaces at the same site to share our scientific research and redisplay our archaeology collections, and increasing the range of interpretation at our major open-air museum at St Fagans, initially through a brand-new introductory interpretive gallery. The first stages of these several elements have already begun and will proceed through 2007-8.
2. A thematic framework for research
2.1 Over the next five years (at least) our research activity will be targeted to help deliver the following six themes, which will be presented in our museums and through our interpretive media.
Life - using our standing as the largest centre of taxonomic expertise in Wales to contribute to national and international programmes in the earth and natural sciences
Origins – investigating the evidence for human activity in Wales, from the earliest times onwards
Belonging – recording the memories, achievements and aspirations of the peoples of Wales
Creativity – encouraging and presenting a culture of artistic innovation and showing the inspiration behind artistic endeavours
Futures – assessing how the past and the present can illuminate the future and for the benefit of all
Flourishing collections – investigating the history of our collections and developing and sharing new methods of caring for and interpreting museum collections, building on our recent experience in carrying out extensive and award-winning developments
2.2 These six broad themes will provide the intellectual framework for research projects. In addition to helping our immediate and medium-term interpretive strategy, these themes and the research projects flowing from them will all contribute towards delivering our long-term development aims, as well as helping wider subject and sector strategies.
2.3 In all these areas our research will focus on:
- the sources that are our raison d’etre, namely the evidence-base represented by our extensive and continually enhanced collections which provide a unique research dimension to investigating aspects of these thematic areas.
- Identifying and exploring the museological aspects of our new developments and evaluating and testing those that have been recently completed.
3. A structural framework for research support
3.1 We will establish (in 2007/8) a research framework for each of the six themes listed above. This will be achieved through an assessment of existing work; drawing up an overall agenda identifying gaps and potential and how we might best contribute to the wider field, and establishing a theme-based research strategy with a prioritised list of research objectives which we will implement by means of individual projects.
3.2 Based on our existing strengths, we will aim (before the end of 2007/8) to establish a number of Research Centres. The Centres will be led by Keepers or senior researchers.
3.3 These centres will be grouped together in a Research School. The Head of the School will be the Director of Collections & Research.
3.4 The Head of the Research School will be supported by a standing Research Board with rotating membership. The Research Board will offer a small number of Research Grants to foster junior researchers.
3.5 In order to help monitor research and foster quality, we will also establish in 2007/8 a Visiting Group system composed of external experts, who will assess the quality and relevance of the collections and research of each of the six subject departments. The process will start with the department with the weakest research history, and address one department a year in turn.
4. Disseminating research
4.1 Research outputs will be disseminated through all methods that are judged appropriate in order to reach the widest audiences, including lectures, conference papers, peer-reviewed academic journals (worldwide), through the online facility of our own Virtual Museum (to be launched later in 2007), and in academic books and popular handbooks. We will begin to publish a series of Museum Practice Papers on the Virtual Museum in 2007/8, sharing museological and learning practice and projects that we have implemented and evaluated.
4.2 Research outputs will also contribute to more pervasive forms of dissemination, by engaging the public in exhibitions, displays, and programmes that are the product of recent research. They will thus reach a wide and multi-level audience as museums are uniquely able to do (our sites attracted over 1.4m visits in 2006/7, of which over 200,000 were in facilitated learning groups).