Stored collections research

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Research funded by

The Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The Museum Documentation Association (now the Collections Trust) 

The Museums Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) (functions assumed by Arts Council England) 

RENAISSANCE 

The Pilgrim Trust

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Authors and researchers

Dr Suzanne Keene

Dr Alice Stevenson

Dr Francesca Monti

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Contact

Dr Suzanne Keene
Reader Emeritus in Museum Studies
suzanne.keene@ucl.ac.uk

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Whale vertebrae in store

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Storage racks

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Other collaborators

Museums Association

ICON: The Institute of Conservation

Scottish Museums Council

National Museum Directors' Conference

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Collections for People

THE STORED COLLECTIONS OF UK MUSEUMS AS A PUBLIC RESOURCE

The Stored Collections research report was published in 2008.

Context and aims

UK museum collections are maintained almost entirely at public expense: those of the national museums alone were estimated by the DCMS (Department of Culture Media & Sport) to cost, in 2000, £34.5 million to store and manage. Yet there was no quantitative or coordinated qualitative information on how much collections are used. Policies and funding conditions called for ‘access’, but it was not clear what was meant by this. The under use of collections had become a public issue, reports in the press questioning why they were kept.

On this website,

The findings

At that time,

  • 74% of museum respondents think collections are insufficiently used
  • 97% of museums report a steady or increasing demand for access to collections
  • Only 13% of museums strongly promote public access to stored collections
  • The size or type of museum, resources available to it, its location or the type of collection were not associated with the amount of use. What made a difference was management policies and promoting availability to the public. 

“Users, especially the interested public, too seldom experience access to the 200 million items in the collections of English and Welsh museums as a public right. This is a service in which museums should excel.” - Report conclusion

Impact

The research has had considerable impact. It led to the Museums Association holding two one-day conferences on using stored collections, Open Up: stored collections as a public resource. The Local Government Association published a report urging greater use of local authority museum collections. There has been much greater general awareness of the need to promote use of and access to collections for the public, with Open Stores days and even nights now commonplace.

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Page last modified on 12 oct 15 10:41 by Matt Keehan