1. The Context
1.1 In 2007 Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales (henceforth ‘The Museum’) celebrates one hundred years of development and achievement as a major repository of Wales’s national treasures, which are held in trust for the nation. This includes a proud tradition of research of national and international importance which has helped to release the knowledge inherent in, and associated with our collections. As we embark on our second century we are guided by the outcome of a major visioning process undertaken in 2005/6, which has defined our Vision for the future as the creation of a world-class museum of learning.
1.2 When the ‘National Museum of Wales’ Museum was established by Royal Charter in 1907, its foundation purpose was defined as the advancement of education of the public, primarily by the complete illustration of the geology, mineralogy, zoology, botany, ethnography, archaeology, art, history and special industries of Wales. Our recent, revised Charter (2006) defines that purpose as ‘the advancement of the education of the public…by the comprehensive representation of science, art, industry, history and culture of, or relevant to, Wales, and generally, by the collection, recording, preservation, elucidation and presentation of objects and things and associated knowledge, whether connected or not with Wales, which are calculated to further the enhancement of understanding and the promotion of research’. The fundamental Charter purpose and research implications are thus largely unchanged.
1.3 Scholarly research is a crucial but largely unsung part of any national museum’s work, and as one of the ‘family’ of national museums in the UK, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales shares this position. Indeed, research and scholarship is inextricably linked to the core functions of collecting and public interpretation, which cannot be adequately discharged without it. More specifically, it is fundamental to all museum activities, whether for establishing permanent displays, developing temporary exhibitions, fulfilling core stewardship functions – such as cataloguing, selecting and processing acquisitions, and conservation – or building the knowledge base, scholarly publication, and improving access to the collections. It is accordingly a sine qua non that a national museum should carry out research, for without it its standing would be imperiled: research is the foundation for all that we do; all our products and outputs derive from it and it is a continual process. Research results themselves are one of the prime products by which we are judged.
1.4 This historic relationship between national museums and research combines with current concepts of ‘globalisation’ to dictate a global role for museums such as ours, both as repositories of material evidence charting the history of humanity and of the natural world and as centres of inquiry, subject expertise and learning. This extends the reach of museum research, which may cross the world to resolve questions about our planet, but which may also focus on single objects and specimens or small sites and communities to answer both local and global questions.
1.5 The principal characteristic of museum-based research is its focus on the object. This may contrast with university research, where emphasis on theory and contextual analysis has signalled a shift (in some disciplines) from taxonomy and object-based research. Museums have thus sustained a knowledge base and expertise that is otherwise being eroded at a time when new public concerns, such as biodiversity, and new techniques, as in genetics, have brought new meanings and new applications to scientific collections and a new range of analytical possibilities for materials across the whole spectrum of interdisciplinary collections.
1.6 In addition to supporting significant areas of expertise (and a wealth of primary evidence in terms of objects and specimens), museum research has more recently developed in aspects of ‘museological’ theory and practice. The process of developing, testing and implementing new displays, exhibitions and teaching and learning techniques demands multi-faceted research effort which is now recognised in its own right and must be shared with the wider museum world in order to stimulate debate and develop models of best practice for public programming.
2. Our Research Policy
2.1 Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales believes that high-quality and innovative research is fundamental to delivering our core foundation purposes and our Vision aim of creating a world-class museum of learning.
Our Learning and Access Policy (2005) includes strengthening research capacity and outputs as one of its five key priorities.
2.2 Research underpins everything that we do, from education and learning to exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, documentation, conservation and playing a significant role in society. This research enables us to understand and draw out the knowledge inherent in that which makes museums unique, namely their collections. Our internationally-important and multi-disciplinary collections amount to some 4.7m objects or groups relating to Wales, the UK and the world. Our staff currently engage in over 100 individual research projects per year. All exhibitions, displays and interpretations that we offer will be based on sound research.
2.3 Structures and systems for facilitating research activity must be established if high quality research is to prosper. Research within Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is fostered by a Research Requirements Board, and agreed dedicated time is provided for appropriate staff to engage in research. We will take active steps to supplement the proportion of our grant-in-aid that we devote to research by other means, such as applications to funding bodies and funded contract work (if appropriate).
3. Principles, parameters and standards
3.1 We will concentrate on our strengths in object-orientated and multi-disciplinary topics. Museums are uniquely placed to deliver research in areas that universities are either largely incapable of doing or from which they have diverged. Museum research is object or specimen-orientated, with particular strengths in material culture and taxonomy. There is also great potential for multi-disciplinary working.
3.2 Museology itself is a developing field for research, for which museums with active programmes of conservation, interpretation and redisplay are well-placed to lead. We will accordingly pursue an active programme of academic research in these areas.
3.3 We will target our research activities so that they will help deliver the strategic goals of our Vision. We will target as much as possible of this research to address national and international research agendas.
3.4 We will adhere to the research criteria of the Research Councils and apply rigorous monitoring of methods, progress and outputs.
3.5 We will encourage new researchers by offering dedicated time and/or grants, and aim to draw in students and others to contribute to our programmes.
3.6 We will be mindful of all issues that have ethical and IPR implications and apply appropriate controls.
4. Partnerships and facilitating structures
4.1 We will aim to deliver as much as possible of our research in partnership with others, and to this end will continue to investigate and create formal partnerships. Where appropriate we will commission research from external scholars or agencies, and ourselves contribute to the research agendas of others through membership of boards and project teams. We will appoint Honorary Research Associates or Fellows in areas where this will help us and others.
4.2 Research activities will be defined through an agreed five-year Research Strategy.
5.1 We believe that communicating research is vital, and outputs will accordingly be disseminated through lectures, participating in conferences, publishing in academic journals worldwide, on our own Virtual Museum, and in academic and popular books. These outputs contribute directly to engaging the public through exhibitions, displays, and programmes, reaching a wide and multi-level audience, which museums again are uniquely able to do.