Enhancing National-Regional Museum Partnerships 11 Oct 2009

At this year’s Museums Association Conference on 7 October NMDC ran a session to present and discuss the initial findings of a project aiming to improve partnership working between national and regional museums.  Diane Lees, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum and chair of the NMDC project, presented key findings of an exercise to map current activity between national and regional museums across the UK, which has included a survey of NMDC members' recent partnership work. 

Results of the mapping exercise highlighted some of the strengths of current partnership working, which include:

  • The sheer number of museum partnerships – across 16 national institutions the total number of projects undertaken with partners across the UK in 2008-09 was well over 1600 (likely to be a vast underestimate of the total UK figure).
  • An increasing understanding of the principles of partnership, and a more strategic approach from an increasing number of institutions.
  • Strategic Commissioning and Renaissance in the Regions funding, which have been hugely important in building more equal partnerships.
  • Good cross-country relationships between England and Wales and Scotland.
  • Considerable and increasing strength in museums working with universities and other research bodies.

Threats and barriers to successful partnership activity were also identified, including:

  • Diminishing resources – both finance (reductions in national and local government funding, earned income, grants) and internal capacity.
  • The absence of a UK-wide delivery strategy.
  • A lack of comprehensive data collection on partnership activity, and consequent underestimation of relationships between national and non-national museums.

A project advisory group, which includes representatives from national and regional museums, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, has met to discuss the initial findings of the mapping exercise and begin development of a set of recommendations for national museums and other sector bodies.  Draft recommendations were presented and discussed with delegates at the MA Conference session, grouped into a series of issues identified as key to improving partnership working:

  • Building collaborative partnerships
  • Working strategically
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Making lending easier
  • Staff development
  • Joint advocacy
  • Recording partnership activity.

A final project report including research findings, a finalised set of recommendations and visual mapping of the distribution of different types of current partnership activity across the UK will be published later this Autumn.  

Further information about our national-regional partnerships project