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University museums – beyond the exhibitions

University museums play a wide and varied role, writes Jacky MacBeath, convenor, University Museums in Scotland.
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University museums and galleries play a hugely significant role in the learning and cultural landscape in Scotland.

We have a worldwide reputation for the quality of our collections. They play a key part in our teaching, community engagement and research opportunities; they allow universities to fulfil their mission to curate and generate knowledge, interpret and understand the world around us. Scotland’s university museums offer unprecedented access to unique and diverse collections and expertise.

So it’s terrific to be able to properly acknowledge and celebrate the role of the Scottish Funding Council’s museums, galleries and collections grant in the development and sustainability of Scottish university museums.

This grant will support innovative work in university museums in Scotland, from local inclusion programmes to international engagement projects.

Funding announced by Minister, Shirley-Anne Somerville at GSAUniversity Museums in Scotland (UMIS) cares for a dispersed national collection of global importance – more than 2.1 million items.

University museums contribute to the higher education sector’s mission to widen access through innovative and inspiring public engagement and outreach activities. We are a critical part of the academic infrastructure in terms of research, research impact, teaching and learning, and the student experience.

The importance of the museums, galleries and collections grant in this story cannot be overstated. The grant has helped university museums address SFC’s key strategic objectives – high quality teaching and learning, world-leading research, greater innovation in the economy and widening access.

The SFC grant also significantly supports core museum business – collections and data management, digitisation and digital engagement, learning and research, conservation, outreach, high-quality exhibitions and so on. It has also helped to secure other sources of funding for significant development projects – in one year attracting up to three times the value of the grant.

The SFC grant is vital in allowing us to invest in physically and digitally opening up our collections to become real public and research assets.

Projects and initiatives the museums, galleries and collections grant will make possible include two major international collaborations by the Hunterian with Harvard Art Museums and the Yale Centre for British Art; support for the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Restoration project; expansion of the University of Stirling’s successful projects with schools, teenagers and adults with learning difficulties, adults with mental health issues, work in Cornton Vale Prison and with people under custodial orders; expanded public engagement and schools programmes at the University of Dundee Museum Service; and internships for students from a widening participation background with University of Edinburgh collections.

Collectively we in UMIS work together to make all our collections accessible through a single online portal, on research conferences and public exhibitions. With the support this award from SFC, we will appoint our first partnership officer to provide increased capacity for collaborative working, widening access and international engagement.

On behalf of University Museums in Scotland, I would like to thank the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government for this award, and look forward to working with you over the next three years on all our programmes and initiatives.

Jacky MacBeath, Head of Museums, University of Edinburgh and Convenor, University Museums in Scotland - 5 Jun 2018