World Collections, a new paper by NMDC, illustrates the breadth of museums' international work and explores its wider impact. UK museums are able to build on long-standing international relationships and the stories which can be told by objects in their collections, to deliver work which has an impact on every region of the world. This ranges from sell-out touring exhibitions to ground-breaking scientific research, staff exchange programmes and relationship-building in regions where government relations face challenges.
The paper looks at how there are positive consequences of this activity as it supports economic growth and investment, encourages cultural exchange, encourages the preservation of memory and exploration of identity, and can be a form of diplomacy.
Working internationally helps UK museums maintain their status as world class institutions, ensures the greatest public access to their collections and expertise, and enables them to deliver a relevant and vibrant public programme. UK museums are already responding to greater demand both for international touring exhibitions and skills sharing - fuelled by the development of new museums with large spaces for temporary exhibition, particularly in Asia - and there is scope to do more. The paper argues that long-term planning is critical, and that recent investment in specific geographic areas over a longer period of time by the World Collections Programme and Connections through Culture demonstrates the benefits of taking a more strategic approach.
World Collections includes ten case studies describing programmes and partnerships around the world, and examples of many other projects. Examples include:
- Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives are working in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum to involve source communitis and young people in projects culminating in the 2012 exhibition Journeys in Beadwork at Shipley Art Gallery;
- The loaned objects from the Science Museum, V&A and British Museum seen by 5.4 million people at the 2011 World Expo in Shanghai in an exhibition curated by the Shanghai Museum;
- The National Media Museum work with recently arrived immigrants from Pakistan in locally-funded community projects in Bradford;
- Tate’s Turbinegeneration education programme, which brings together 275 schools with artists and cultural institutions from 40 countries; and
- National Museums Scotland, Royal Museums Greenwich, Tate, V&A and IWM work with counterparts in Russia on skills sharing and exhibition projects, including the forthcoming Peter the Great exhibition in Edinburgh and Catherine the Great in Greenwich.