June 21, 2021

Covid-19: Beyond the Crisis?

Covid 19: Beyond the Crisis?‘ results from the survey undertaken by the UMG committee in April 2021.

As with our report published a year ago, this is a powerful document. The report clearly articulates the continuing impacts of the Covid crisis on our sector and our members’ concerns, especially over funding, capital works, research and teaching, but it also highlights the hugely creative and committed contribution being made as we enter the recovery period, pointing to a distinctive role for university museums, which calls out for recognition, development and investment.

Thank you again to everyone who responded to this survey and helped make the report rich with information and narrative. Particular thanks are owed to our Oxford colleagues, Dr Hattie Warburton, Dr Emma Webster and Sara Harman, for compiling the report.

May 29, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 29 May 2020

This week Nicola joined an ACE museum organisations’ meeting on Wednesday, and we both attended the Minister’s museums and galleries reopening task force yesterday. A few headlines:

  1. Both ACE and the Heritage Fund are looking beyond the current ’emergency’ programmes to a ‘stabilisation’ phase of funding, and in the case of ACE a third ‘reset’ phase. In the case of ACE, details will be published as part of the previously announced, but delayed delivery plan.
    DCMS are considering medium to longer term support for the sector, but will need to negotiate any offer with Treasury – we do not expect any announcement in the immediate future.
  2. Art Fund and ICOM have published surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on museums (in the UK and internationally, respectively).
  3. There has been ongoing discussion about what might be done differently following reopening. It is suggested that museums could or should work ‘hyper-locally’, in support particularly of their most immediate communities; while strengthening their digital offer. Both Heritage Fund and ACE are concerned that online offerings have been of mixed quality. The ArtFund perspective is that museums should have a go, and learn from mistakes.
  4. The call with the minister was focussed on the draft NMDC ‘Good practice guidelines for reopening museums.’ This is a four-page document with a lengthy appendix on practical steps; it places considerable emphasis on local context and museum-specific issues. The approach is to flag areas such as staff safety and wellbeing; public safety; the adaptation of buildings; financial viability; visitor expectations and transport systems, rather than set out detailed prescriptions. It is undergoing further revision and will be published by 13 June, hence three weeks ahead of the earliest legal reopening date, subject to confirmation, of 4 July. Some institutions we are aware of are anticipating early August reopening.
  5. The UMG committee meets on 4 June; the next update will follow that meeting.

Nicholas Thomas / Nicola Kalinsky
University Museums Group

May 26, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 26 May 2020

We attach the report, ‘Assessing the Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on University Museums‘, resulting from the survey undertaken by the UMG committee at the end of April. We feel this report is a clear and powerful document, capturing both the immediate situation during the lock down period and flagging up key concerns for University Museums in the months and years ahead – some of these are common to the wider museum sector, but others relate specifically to our context within Higher Education. There are also strong messages about the opportunities present in recovery for university museums.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed to this exercise and particular thanks to Helen Mark, Data Manager for the Manchester Museum Partnership, University of Manchester, who prepared the report. The report will be posted on the UMG website and shared with our networks in ACE and DCMS. The next UMG committee meeting will consider how we continue to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on university museums and further advocacy steps.

Other news:

At you are likely to be aware, the government has established five COVID-19 ‘roadmap taskforces’ to provide sector-specific guidance towards reopening, including one convened by DCMS dedicated to Recreation and Leisure. The UMG Co-Chairs have joined a Museums and Galleries subgroup convened by Caroline Dinenage (Minister of State for Digital and Culture) tasked with ‘Identifying and resolving practical, sector-specific guidance-related issues’ and enabling communication and dissemination. However, as previously noted, NMDC had already moved to establish a remobilisation working group, and it is not expected that the Minister’s group will duplicate that work. On Friday, Kathryn Simpson (Acting Head of Strategy,

NMDC) circulated a statement, ‘An NMDC-led cross-sectoral working group is developing good practice guidance on museum reopening with DCMS’ support.

The approach is guided by the safety of visitors and staff, and financial sustainability. The guidance acknowledges the complexity of the sector, where each museum will be working within a unique set of circumstances and responding to local contexts. We hope the guidance will be ready to share in early June.’

It was clear from the discussions that museums are expected to reopen in a phased way, most likely from early to mid-July through to September or October.

We also joined the ACE-led Collections at Risk sector meeting on 21 May, which included further reports from ACE and the Heritage Fund regarding the take up of emergency funds. It has been noted that this has been low relative to other parts of the cultural sector, underscoring the sense that for museums and university museums, critical challenges may lie ahead – in the autumn and beyond.

Nicholas Thomas / Nicola Kalinsky
University Museums Group

May 14, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 14 May 2020

We can report on two fronts – reopening and the UMG survey.

(We assume that you are aware of the widely-reported extension of the Job Retention Scheme and the state of play with current funding schemes – links provided in earlier updates).

1 – Reopening

Government guidance for England now indicates that museums and galleries may reopen as part of Step 3 of the roadmap to lift restrictions, scheduled ‘no earlier than 4 July’.

The NMDC remobilisation working group anticipates publishing a short paper within the next week or so, followed by more detailed guidance. It is recognised that the physical conditions of museums differ widely; some historic buildings constrain visitor numbers, given social distancing, much more than others. Some museums cannot open without the support of volunteers in at-risk age groups; some staff may be unable to travel to work without using public transport; in some cases reopening with limited visitor numbers may not be financially viable. Staff, volunteers and visitors need to be safe and also feel safe.

Some museums are now working on plans to reopen in July; others are more focussed on subsequent months; timetables are of course subject to what is happening with the virus, with testing, etc. It is recognised that there will be a communications challenge, as some museums open earlier than others, and a risk that some may suffer from more prolonged closure. It will be important that university leaderships recognise that museums should open in relation to museums regionally and nationally, possibly prior to other university buildings reopening for students.

The Cabinet Office has established five roadmap taskforces; one of these, dedicated to the recreation and leisure sector, will be convened by DCMS; the taskforce will have a Museums and Galleries subgroup, which we have been invited to join. It meets for the first time next Monday.

The Association of Independent Museums is looking at providing detailed guidance specifically for smaller museums, which may also be helpful to some university museums.

2 – Our survey

Twenty-one museums responded to the UMG Covid-19 Impact survey, representing ten English universities and one Scottish, and with a combined audience of over 4 million visitors and 475 staff. Thank you very much to everyone who contributed. As well as vital quantitative information, there is a wealth of insightful narrative feedback, which aligns with the general sector experience but also highlights the specific context and concerns of university museums. All the quantitative data is presented in aggregate and the qualitative responses have been anonymised.

Headline themes point to the greater threat of the medium and long term impacts of Covid-19, with the likely contraction of HE and strong possibility that host universities may retrench, with activities perceived as ‘non-core’ being particularly vulnerable. That said, there is also a strong message about the opportunities present in recovery for university museums to demonstrate their pivotal contribution as an interface between HE and civic society, as specialists in delivering health and well-being, and our agility, with the support and resources, to benefit from the future focus on the digital.

The final report will be shared with DCMS and ACE next week, circulated via this list, and posted on the UMG website. Although the returns have provided ample material for this exercise, we still welcome further responses which can help inform continuing development of our advocacy message. We would particularly like to hear from non-RE funded museums.

Please feel free to feed back more informally, if that is more appropriate for you at this time.

Nicholas Thomas / Nicola Kalinsky
University Museums Group

April 29, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 29 April 2020

An update from the weekly DCMS meeting for museum organisations.

The launch of a new loan scheme for small and medium businesses, the ‘Bounce Back Loan Scheme’, was noted; the discussion which followed asked for clarity from Treasury that charities could apply, although it was felt that few charities in the museum sector would have the business confidence to take up these loans, with repayments required within 6 years. The scheme is not for public sector organisations.

The NLHF and ACE gave updates on their emergency funding schemes.  Next Monday the NLHF will announce a new strategic intervention package with grants of between £50,000 and £250,000 targeted at larger organisations. ACE are currently assessing the first round of applications for the non-NPO fund, the second round is still open but closes Friday this week. The portal for funding to support NPOs will open 12 May and close 19 May, so a short turnaround. As ever, full details on their respective websites (below).

NMDC/DCMS have set up a working group to consider the implications of coming out of lock down on the museum sector.  UMG committee member, Caroline Macdonald is participating on behalf of her organisation but she will also be able to report back to the committee, so we can share information as available.  The focus will be on the practicalities of adapting to a new situation and what will be needed in terms of supporting infrastructure. The need for clarity over guidelines was emphasised, and the importance of ensuring public confidence, or visitors will not return to museums.

Nicola Kalinsky
University Museums Group





April 28, 2020

UMG Survey in response to COVID-19 crisis

The DCMS Committee has launched an inquiry into the ‘Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors’. It will consider both the immediate and long-term impact that Covid-19 and the related social and financial measures are having on the wide range of industries and organisations under the Committee’s remit.

To inform our collective response to this inquiry, UMG is gathering evidence from members via a Survey.

Why it matters:

  • Findings will inform UMG response to the DCMS call-out for evidence
  • They will shape a strong advocacy position and discussions with Research England.
  • They will provide a UK-wide summary of the challenge facing university museums, that you can use with your host institutions and funders.

In line with the DCMS call out, the consultation aims to:

  • Assess the immediate impacts of COVID-19 on university museum
  • Assess the efficacy of support provided to university museums to date
  • Consider the likely long-term impacts of COVID-19 on university museums
  • Ask how might the university museums sector evolve after COVID-19, and how can DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?

Download the Survey here.

Completed surveys should be returned to helen.mark@manchester.ac.uk by 4 May. We only need one return per institution.

April 20, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 15 April 2020

These notes draw primarily on an extended meeting for museum organisations hosted by ACE this morning, and the weekly DCMS museums meeting this afternoon, as well as other updates we have received. Discussion has continued to focus on the immediate crisis; we anticipate that over the next few weeks we should get some insight into expectations regarding work towards re-opening, and consideration of responses to future pressures.

1) Financial support – big picture Notwithstanding the range of major (ACE, Heritage Fund, etc.) and more specific schemes, Kate Bellamy (ACE) acknowledged that ‘there will not be enough funding to support every museum’. It is anticipated that support emergency funds and support schemes will be heavily oversubscribed, and that some of the government initiatives, the business loans scheme for example, may not be easily accessible to museums. For ACE/DCMS, the immediate priority is museums facing insolvency/failing in the next four to six weeks, but it is recognised that museums will be under considerable pressure beyond this time frame. The expectation is that institutions will change; some will have to rethink their operations; some organisations will no longer exist.

Museums seeking emergency funding can only receive funds from either HF or ACE, not both; if you are considering an application, do seek advice as to which funding source is most appropriate.

2) Impact on HE Universities UK published a submission to government concerning the impact of the COVID-19 emergency on universities on 10 April which can be accessed here.

3) Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Updated guidance was published on 10 April.

4) Work towards re-opening/recovery The sense is that it is still too early to consider timescales, but it was noted that France anticipates some relaxation of lockdown measures from mid-May, but no opening up for larger public events before July.

5) Sharing intelligence It is acknowledged that there has been a flood of information, not all of which is joined up or fully accessible. Available surveys include one undertaken by the Heritage Fund.

ArtFund will survey their network next week to ask what do museums need most at the moment, so they can align, plug gaps.

6) Accreditation/Recognition ACE has extended the accredited status of organisations by 12 months; the scheme will be re-opened from April 2021; there is an FAQs document accessible online:

Note for museums which have submitted accreditation applications: ‘You will not be required to submit a new return once the scheme reopens in April 2021.’

In Scotland, the Recognition scheme has similarly been paused.

7) Project grants Both the Heritage Fund and ACE have suspended standard project grants for six months. It is anticipated that when schemes reopen, new criteria will include contributions to the recovery process.

8) AIL/Export Licences/Cultural Gifts This all paused as no objects can be viewed, panels not currently operating. Envisaged that there will be a backlog after lockdown lifts.

9) Security of collections The National Trust reports cases of ‘hostile reconnaissance’ around some sites. We recommend to members that they assess any security vulnerability, and consider whether special arrangements, such as seeking additional patrols from university security officers, should be put in place.

10) Disposal of collections/collections at risk While there is no immediate proposal to change guidance, it is recognized that some museums may consider selling works in order to address financial problems. Colleagues are also asking: if museums are going to close, what will happen to their collections? It is possible that some university museums may be asked to receive such collections and/or support disposal processes.

11) Workforce and Volunteers Some organisations report that they are losing their volunteers, and that volunteers are suffering isolation. In some cases, online training may provide opportunities to sustain engagement.

12) Digital Acknowledgement of unevenness of digital offer across sector, underlining gaps in digital capacity. Need to be prepared for further/continuing periods of lockdown/remote working and to ensure that museums have resilience and support to work remotely. ArtFund flagged the Digital Skills Initiative.

13) ‘Collections care in lockdown’

This online discussion may be useful.

14) Art Fund/ACE-V&A Purchase Fund

These programmes remain open for applications.

Nicola Kalinsky / Nicholas Thomas
University Museums Group

April 9, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 9 April 2020

These notes draw on a DCMS cross-sector meeting yesterday (8 April) and a meeting between DCMS and ourselves today (9 April), as well as other updates and advice we have received.

  1. The DCMS museums team has been closely monitoring independent and other museums that may face insolvency within 8 weeks, while noting that there is currently uncertainty about the availability and timing of any relevant support for institutions at risk of financial failure.
  2. National museums and universities alike have been closely engaged in exploring scope to furlough staff and draw on support from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It’s now clear that nearly all national museums will be going down this route. As of today we understand some universities have decided not to do so, or not to do so immediately. Others do plan to furlough staff, potentially including museum staff, and particularly but not necessarily exclusively those in front-of-house, commercial and technical roles. It should be noted that the approaches being considered would top up the 80% government contribution from other funds, so that the staff concerned would not see any change in their pay, nor would there be any implication that their employment would not continue as previously after furlough. Treasury however discourages topping-up, taking the view that reserves and trading income should be guarded in support of medium term sustainability.

We expect universities to make their approaches to furloughing clearer in the near future, and would appreciate any information you may be in a position to share over coming days and weeks.

  1. Both the Arts Council England and the Heritage Fund have announced emergency schemes; see links at bottom. The Heritage Fund is also looking at scope for grant holders to repurpose or seek increases to awards. DCMS is also in the early stages of discussion with a group of charities with interests in the cultural sector who it is hoped may provide support in the short to medium term, possibly through a joint scheme.
  2. As noted above, we had the chance today to provide DCMS with an update from the perspective of university museums. We drew attention (1) to loss of revenue issues; (2) to ongoing consideration within universities of furloughing, but (3) signalled that the biggest issue would probably be the knock-on consequences of a major hit to universities’ revenue, arising particularly from a likely collapse in international student recruitment for the academic year 2020-21. We indicated that while, over the past few years, university leaders have become more aware of the contributions their museums make, to research impact, teaching, student experience, civic engagement and international reach, there is nevertheless a sense that our institutions are ‘non-core’: by definition we are therefore vulnerable in any particularly challenging financial situation. It was noted that university finances have in any case come under considerable pressure recently, compounded by shortfalls likely to arise from reduced EU student numbers, uncertainty about access to European research funding, etc.

Our understanding is that while university senior management are modelling financial impacts, their projections are not yet being widely shared within institutions, nor are they yet providing guidance regarding steps that may be taken in response to acute difficulties, such as moratoria on replacing staff or redundancy schemes.

  1. DCMS colleagues are aware that university museums represent over a third of designated and recognized collections, and that there are many cities and towns in which our institutions are the major providers of the museum service. They are therefore keenly interested in knowing of any university museum which in due course may be threatened with cuts or possible closure.

They advised that institutions in such situations can share financial information in confidence.

We are equally anxious to have news from institutions, especially any news of any approach to university resources that may impact adversely on members. Please keep in touch with us; should you wish to contact the DCMS team directly, the relevant email address is: covid19-mcp@culture.gov.uk

Nicola Kalinsky / Nicholas Thomas
University Museums Group

March 30, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 30 March 2020

Notes from today’s DCMS-hosted museum sector meeting: 30 March 2020.

  1. The broad picture

Many heritage organisations, including independent museums, do not have the capacity to continue trading for more than a few months, notwithstanding the various support schemes announced by the government. University museums will be looking at the (more or less damaging) loss of revenue but are institutionally sheltered from near-term business failure. However, if numerous non-university museums fail financially, there are likely to be knock-on consequences for the funding and health of the wider sector that are difficult to assess at present.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The details are still emerging, and there will be further guidance published very soon, but the expectation is that universities will not in general be furloughing employees, hence will not be likely to be eligible. Should any member be aware that their university or a university proposes to furlough staff (i.e. require them to take unpaid leave), please let us know.

  1. Building access

The Co-Chairs wrote to Universities UK on this matter on Friday 27 March. The last substantive paragraph, requesting support for the registration of collections staff among those performing essential work, appears now to be superceded: DCMS advise that ‘Anyone who has to travel to work, can travel to work’.

We are aware that a number of universities are in the process of generating letters which officially confirm that individual staff are required to go to work (for us, attend sites to undertake security and environmental checks). Although we are not aware that UK police are yet asking people going to work to produce proof of their need to do so, museum directors may wish to provide staff with letters now, to ensure that they do not encounter difficulties, given that it may take central university services some time to provide such documents.

  1. Construction

It was acknowledged that this has been an area of confusion. DCMS staff say that the government does not require construction projects to halt. If your institution is engaged in a major project, and there is uncertainty as to whether work will carry on or not, you may wish to seek guidance from the DCMS team (covid19-mcp@culture.gov.uk), which may help clarify the options for your university estates managers and contractors themselves. Of course, work may stop on some sites because contractors’ staff are self-isolating, etc., but in so far as we can understand the official position, it is that work may continue.

Nicola Kalinsky / Nicholas Thomas
University Museums Group

March 30, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 25 March 2020

The Co-Chairs have joined a DCMS museum representatives’ group that is currently running a short meeting every week (the other participants include ACE, NMDC, the MA, AIM, the Heritage Fund and the devolved administrations).

The headlines from the meeting were:

  1. Building access

Following the UMG Committee discussion referred to in yesterday’s update, many members have been concerned that university closures may preclude access to museum sites for the purposes of conducting security and environmental monitoring checks. DCMS is clear that visits by security or collections staff to ensure the safety of collections count as ‘essential’. This is equally so for library special collections. It was noted that for many institutions there is a legal duty to ensure preservation. If any members are finding that the leadership at your institution, or estates management staff, are seeking to shut down your access for these purposes, you may advise them that formal guidance from the Cabinet Office will be published in coming days which makes this position clear.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

While this is under the umbrella of support for ‘businesses’, all UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible, including public sector bodies and charities. The current guidance is at the link below; it will be further updated in coming days:


The scheme enables 80% support for the wages of staff who cannot undertake their duties and are on furlough (i.e. are not being paid). Where universities have made a commitment to retaining staff on full pay or sick pay, this scheme will not be relevant. Note also that the roles of staff who continue to be employed part-time cannot be supported through this scheme.

  1. Government loans

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is unlikely to be relevant to any university museum, except possibly those that have establishing spinoff trading companies.

  1. Arts Council of England

[Update following meeting: late on Tuesday 24 March, ACE emailed award recipients and posted details of support packages on its website. Funding for NPOs will be rolled over for a year and the next investment round deferred].

  1. DCMS

The DCMS team emphasises that communication from us is really important to them, both regarding challenges and ‘good news’. ‘If there is any work that museums can highlight, we will make the case that museums are still doing great things… Please pass on news’. The team email is: covid19-mcp@culture.gov.uk

Nicholas Thomas
University Museums Group

March 23, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 23 March 2020

The great majority of UK university museums closed to the public last Tuesday, or otherwise last week – a step that most of us never imaged taking. We’re very much aware that this time has been enormously difficult from a professional angle for colleagues across the sector, as well as more personally, as some are going into self-isolation and others are deeply concerned about friends and family members who may be vulnerable or unwell.

A routine UMG committee meeting was scheduled for Thursday 19 March. With the support of Julia Cunningham, Nicola’s PA, we ran a dial-in meeting involving, in addition to ourselves, Janneke Geene (Treasurer; MMU), Jo McPhee (Secretary; Cambridge), Esme Ward (Manchester), Xa Sturgis (Oxford), Tannis Davidson (UCL), Harriet Warburton (Oxford), Carol Shiels (St George’s, London), Mungo Campbell (Glasgow) and Kat Nilsson (UCL) participated.

We set aside the standing agenda and shared notes regarding the COVID-19 emergency and its impact on our institutions. We noted among areas of particular concern for University museums:

  • As universities enforce estate closures, it may be challenging to maintain access to buildings and collections. While some universities readily recognize that laboratories with live animals require special arrangements, we confront what is at many institutions a longstanding issue, that museums are not quite on the radar of the university leadership or those responsible for estate management. Yet we do require access to sustain environmental monitoring, especially as we are entering the season in which pests are a greater threat; the usual seasonal threat may be exacerbated as spaces are darker, less occupied and less visited.
  • We are similarly concerned by threats to the security of buildings and collections. It is critical that security staffing and monitoring is maintained. The recent theft from Christ Church, Oxford, was noted. Some criminals may seek to take advantage of current circumstances.
  • The financial impact of closure will be considerable, particularly for those institutions which charge for special exhibition entry and/or generate critical revenue from retail, catering and venue hire.
  • We are mindful of the duty of care to staff, including those on temporary or flexible contracts. In principle, institutions seek to safeguard salaries; in practice, what is possible will depend on institutional policies (at the university level) and the capacity and willingness of institutions to fund positions (and whether they are eligible to draw on government support announced.
  • We need to think creatively about how to design work packages for those who will be working from home, and around scope for redeploying staff, such as visitor services staff, who cannot undertake their normal work during closure (but may be able to support our online engagement; or contribute to documentation projects).
  • We need to continue supporting and engaging our volunteers during the period of closure to the public.
  • We need to do whatever we can in support of the wellbeing of our staff – through informal contacts such as online coffee mornings or quick catch-ups by phone.
  • Where university museums are closely engaged in specific teaching programmes, consideration will need to be given to supporting students, in the absence of scope for hands-on, artefact-based work, which has become a particularly strength of the work of many institutions in recent years.
  • Given, similarly, the centrality of research support and impact in our advocacy, we will need to assess the consequences of the cancellation or postponement of exhibitions and programmes that are important to REF impact cases. It is as yet unclear whether any rescheduling of the REF census date or assessment process may be considered.
  • Across institutions, temporary exhibitions have or will be cancelled or rescheduled. In many cases significant funds and time have been invested in their preparation. In many instances there will be complex knock-on consequences (e.g. in the case of multi-venue touring exhibitions: one postponement may impact the schedules of multiple institutions). Similarly, many museums have loans out that were due to be couriered back to our museums in coming months. In some instances, extensions will need to be sought for time-limited indemnity arrangements.
  • Many museums have stated that they aim to remain ‘open’ online. Redeployed staff may be able to contribute to an enhanced digital presence. Institutions with larger teams are better placed to adapt and enhance their profile.
  • As with the broader emergency, we have little sense at present of the likely duration of closures. In due course, institutions will need to engage in longer-term planning, taking into consideration the impact of lost revenue.

In this gravely challenging context, the University Museums Group should support members as fully as our capacity permits.

  • We will support the sector through responsive communication, via the JISC list, the website and social media. Members should not hesitate to put out a call if they are in the need of guidance and support.
  • We will seek clarification from funders regarding the suspension of award requirements (along the lines ACE has already announced, for National Portfolio Organisations), and parallel mechanisms such as no-cost extensions for project grants. (E.g. the Director of the Pilgrim Trust has recently written to grant recipients indicating that they are receptive to requests to adapt project plans and timescales). Any member may write to the Secretary and Co-Chairs to suggest that we seek similar assurances from any agencies that have not already announced them.
  • The Co-Chairs have already communicated with Research England regarding HEMG funding, and received a holding reply.
  • Our support and communication will aim to be relevant to member institutions of all kinds, on different scales and with different vulnerabilities.
  • We will sustain engagement and communication with key organisations and stakeholders including NMDC, the MA, ACE and UUK.
  • As the emergency passes, we will support university museums seeking to contribute pro-actively, in re-establishing and reinvigorating research, the student experience and civic engagement, for example through support for smaller cultural organisations in our communities.
  • We will support the advocacy of museums within their universities.

The UMG Committee will meet again, virtually, in approximately a month and will provide a further update at that time. In the interim, we will circulate notes from sector meetings we have been invited to; members should feel free to use the JISC list to circulate questions among peers, or email the Secretary and Co-Chairs with questions that may be more focussed or confidential. We may not have answers ourselves but will aim to liaise with whichever colleagues may be best placed to provide advice, in order to share effective responses across the membership and our sector.

Nicholas Thomas and Nicola Kalinksy
University Museums Group

July 29, 2019

Executive Committee vacancies

There are three openings on the UMG Executive Committee for new members, and in addition we are looking to fill the role of Treasurer. This is an exciting time for UMG, as following on from last year’s consultation we are relaunching the organisation, seeking to involve the widest possible range of colleagues and institutions, and working towards an association that supports the sector in a responsive, effective and representative way. We are looking for new members who will help us drive this forward.

The Executive Committee welcomes expressions of interest from members interested in joining the committee.

Further information, including details of the application process, are available here.

In the event of more candidates being nominated than positions, an election will be held by ballot at the AGM.

Expressions of interest must be received by Friday 30 August 2019 in order to circulate the statements with the AGM papers. Please send to UMG Secretary Jo McPhee.

July 24, 2019

The Future of University Museums Workshop Day

Tuesday 17 September
University College London
10.45am – 5pm

This is a time of challenge and uncertainty, for both universities and museums. In an already tough environment, wide-ranging cuts may follow a possible no-deal Brexit. It is also unclear whether reduced university income, following the cuts in tuition fees recommended in the Augar Report, would be compensated for by central government. If universities respond by narrowing their definitions of core purposes, our innovative collections-based teaching and research, and our vibrant and engaging public programmes may be threatened.  The Future of University Museums is an opportunity to hear from senior representatives as they offer their perspectives on current issues and invite discussion and comment.   Confirmed speakers include Michael Thompson, Universities UK, Jane Robinson, Dean of Engagement and Place, Newcastle University and Ed Davison, Head of Office, Office for Students. Breakout sessions  in the afternoon will give all participants a chance to speak to three core themes: research impact, teaching and museums, and museums and civic engagement, and to share their experiences with colleagues across the sector.

Please confirm your attendance with Tannis Davidson, by 6 September 2019.

March 7, 2019

Consultancy on University Museums Group Governance

The University Museums Group (UMG) are seeking to appoint a consultant to review its current role and to make recommendations on its future governance, organisational structure, objectives and financial sustainability.

This will enable UMG to work to support the needs of member institutions more effectively, over a challenging period.

The consultant will review and make recommendations concerning the governance of UMG. The Committee expect the recommendations to include revisions to UMG’s constitution, membership arrangements, accounting and auditing.

Specifically the consultant will:

  • Review UMG’s current constitution and its organisational status with a
    view to recommending a revised model, or appropriate options, to the UMG committee. This may include a comparator review of other sector support organisations and an assessment of the potential for UMG to seek
    charitable status.
  • Review UMG’s financial structure, including the role and responsibilities of the Treasurer; its accounting and auditing arrangements, and its
    membership fees. This may include a review of other sector support
    organisations (such as AIM, SSNs, GEM etc.).

The consultant should prepare

  • A draft, revised constitution
  • Specific guidance regarding appropriate banking, accounting and auditing
  • Guidance regarding the costs and potential benefits of securing charitable

Tenders should be submitted by 8 April 2019. These should consist of a proposal outlining how the work would be approached, of no more than 2 pages, a summary CV, and a fee proposal.

For full details of the consultancy and tendering process please download the UMG Governance Consultancy Brief.

June 21, 2018

Last chance to book for Conference 2018

Foreign exchange? University museums and international engagement

University of Cambridge, 3 July 2018

University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge


Booking is now closed.


University museum collections originate from many countries. Over decades and in some cases centuries, they were created and curated through scientific fieldwork and collecting that ranged worldwide. In the present, those interested in studying collections and in borrowing art works and specimens for analysis and exhibition represent, like our students, many nations. International engagement is anything but foreign to us.


At the University Museums Group’s 2016 conference, Matt Hancock, now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, affirmed that museums and universities are ‘absolutely central to our post-Brexit future, open and engaged with the whole world, progressive and positive in shaping how Britain sees herself and is seen the world over.’ Universities similarly express ambitions to contribute globally. In 2018, academic and cultural collaboration seems more urgent than ever, yet also more difficult, as threats to global peace and security multiply.


The University Museums Group’s 2018 conference will explore how university museums can contribute to, and even lead, universities’ efforts to engage internationally. It will consider how smaller as well as larger museums can participate in, and benefit from, international programmes. Panels will offer presentations from sponsoring bodies and case studies from museum staff, ranging over practical experience and future opportunities. We encourage open discussion of challenges and constraints, while celebrating the accomplishments and the potential of university museums to make a positive difference through international work.

Full conference programme:

09.45 – 10.45 Registration with refreshments

09.45 for tour participants

10.15 for all others

10.00 – 10.30


Tour of Museum of Zoology (pre booked only)

Led by: Jack Ashby, Manager, Museum of Zoology

10.45 Conference opens

Welcome from Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Cambridge



Diane Lees CBE, Director-General, Imperial War Museum

Introduced by: Nicola Kalinsky, Director, Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Co-Chair, University Museums Group

11.40 Panel discussion: The funding environment


·         Rachael Browning, Head of Programmes, Art Fund

·         Dana Andrew, Executive Director, ICOM UK

·         Dr Laura Carletti, European and International Manager, Research Operations Office, University of Cambridge

·         Professor Rodney Harrison, AHRC Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellow, UCL

Chair: Ghislaine Wood, Deputy Director, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia

12.55 Welcome to the Museum of Zoology

Professor Paul Brakefield, Director, Museum of Zoology
1.00 – 1.45 Lunch
1.30 – 2.00 Tour of Museum of Zoology (pre booked only)

Led by: Jack Ashby, Manager, Museum of Zoology


1.45 – 2.20 University Museums Group AGM
2.20 Keynote:

Professor Wayne Modest, Head of the Research Centre for Material Culture, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

Introduced by: Dr Mark Elliott, Senior Curator for Anthropology, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

3.00 Lightning Case Studies
·         Walking with the Buddha: creating a UK research-led exhibition in TaiwanRachel Barclay, Curator, Oriental Museum

·         Experiments in collaboration: commissioning Indigenous and Adivasi sculpture

Dr Mark Elliott, Senior Curator for Anthropology, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology

·         University museums and global agendas

Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology, Manchester Museum

·         MicroPasts: Crowd and community fuelled international research

Daniel Pett, Head of IT & Digital, The Fitzwilliam Museum

·         Manchester Museum’s new China Gallery 

Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections, Manchester Museum

·         Science in University Museums – an international initiative

Professor Paul Smith, Director Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Chair: Dr Xa Sturgis, Director Ashmolean Museum


4.30 – 5 Break with refreshments
5.00 Keynote:

Kate Bellamy, Director of Museums, Arts Council England

In conversation with Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Co-Chair, University Museums Group

5.40 Attendees walk to Kettle’s Yard
6.00 Reception at Kettle’s Yard
7.00 Close


You can download the full programme here UMG Conference Programme 2018 final

April 25, 2018

Call for Papers: conference 2018

Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

University Musuems Group – 2018 conference

Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

Tuesday 3 July 2018


The theme of the University Museums Group’s 2018 conference is ‘Foreign exchange: University museums and international engagement’.


The organising group welcomes proposals for ‘lightning talks’, for 8 minute presentations, which will be presented in two panel sessions of case studies. Each should outline a particular international project, drawing attention to wider issues arising from its development, realisation and/or legacy. Proposals which draw attention to opportunities, but also frankly acknowledge challenges are welcome.


The conference organisers anticipate selecting 5-6 proposals for presentation during the afternoon at the conference in Cambridge. Please be aware that they will seek a representative range of speakers, in terms of disciplines, and smaller and larger museums: we regret that it is unlikely that every good proposal can be included.


Deadline for submissions:       Friday 1 June

Please forward abstracts to:   Nicola Kalinsky, n.kalinsky@bham.ac.uk

For more information on the conference, and to book your place, see the Conference 2018 web page.

August 4, 2017

Annual conference: updated programme now available

Bramall Music Building

Bramall Music Building

Stuff and Knowledge: an exploration of the future of teaching and learning within University Museums

University of Birmingham, 11 September 2017

Bramall Music Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT


You can download the latest information on the UMG annual conference here:  UMG Conference 2017_full programme August update.

Bookings are now open and conference fees have been reduced to only £40 including lunch on arrival, tea, coffee and evening reception.

Please book your place online at:


Bookings have now been extended until 4th September.

June 23, 2017

Annual conference: programme and events confirmed

Bramall Music Building

Bramall Music Building

Stuff and Knowledge: the future of teaching and learning in University Museums

University of Birmingham, 11-12 September 2017

Bramall Music Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT


Objects have been intrinsic to teaching and learning within higher education and university museums since their very beginnings. Although the context may have changed from primarily knowledge-focused learning, to include skills-based analytical learning, collections and object-based learning still have an essential role to play within higher education today.

Focusing on the development of the Teaching Excellence Framework and the current educational climate, this conference will explore and debate the benefits and challenges of teaching with museum and departmental collections through innovative and provocative keynote addresses, diverse case studies and illuminating panel discussions.

University Museums Group conferences are renowned for their networking opportunities, and there will be plenty of spaces within the programme for delegates to meet, share experiences and make new connections.

Download the conference programme: UMG Conference 2017 programme and booking information .


Booking information

The conference fee is £120.00, which includes lunch on arrival, tea, coffee and evening reception.  A reduced rate of £60.00 is available for students (limited places are available at this rate so please book early).  Bookings close on Monday 21st August.

Please book online via the University of Birmingham online shop.


Hotel accommodation can be booked via Meet Birmingham.

For more information on the venue and a map of the campus, follow the links below:





Reminder of Call for Papers

This year we are inviting proposals on the theme of teaching and learning within university museums, with a focus on higher education.  We are looking for fast paced presentations that offer examples of innovative practice.

If you would like to contribute to the conference, please submit a brief description of your potential contribution (300 words) including a title, name of presenter(s), summary of themes to be addressed to admin@universitymuseumsgroup.org by Friday 30th June 2017.


January 18, 2017

HEFCE to invest £10.7 million a year in university museums, galleries and collections

UCL Grant Museum

UCL Grant Museum

HEFCE will fund 33 higher education museums, galleries and collections which provide a unique and significant contribution to research and scholarship.

This funding was agreed following an independent review drawing on experts from the museum and higher education sectors. The review was chaired by Diane Lees CBE, Director-General of the Imperial War Museums.  The panel considered 50 submissions from 33 higher education institutions.

The process was highly competitive, and the panel noted the outstanding quality and compelling evidence provided in the submissions.

Diane Lees said:

‘As a panel, we found a truly inspiring array of case studies which demonstrated the range of research that university museums, galleries and collections carry out. The total funding requested exceeded the total funding available, and the quality of the submissions did not make this an easy process. As a panel we delivered recommendations to the HEFCE Board based on the evidence provided in the submissions. We are very pleased that HEFCE has continued to provide this invaluable support to the university museums, galleries and collections sector.’

The funding announced today recognises the substantial extra cost incurred by universities supporting museums and galleries which provide significant services to the higher education community.

David Sweeney, Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, said:

‘We recognise the unique and significant contributions university museums, galleries and collections make to research, scholarship and research impact in the UK and internationally. Our funding recognises that their important work entails extra costs. We value the support they offer the research community and are delighted to fund 33 of these important collections.’

See the full list of the funded museums and galleries on the HEFCE website.

December 10, 2015

New research demonstrates value of University Museums

New research undertaken by the UMG has demonstrated the continuing importance of university museums in caring for and making accessible collections of national and international significance.  The research relates to those museums currently supported by the HEFCE Museums, Galleries and Collections Fund.


Key points from the research include:

  • HEFCE-funded university museums care for, and make accessible, a great wealth of collections of national and international significance. They comprise 2.3% of all Accredited museums in England, but 24% of museum collections that are Designated as being of national and international significance.  In essence, they constitute a distributed collection of equivalent quality to national museums
  • In 2014-15, the £10.5m of HEFCE Museums, Galleries & Collections funding enabled 30 university museums and galleries in England to leverage a total of £42.5m of funding from other external sources (trusts, foundations, research councils, commercial income, philanthropy and donations)
  • In addition, the HEFCE funding leveraged £13.5m of direct support from host universities, giving a total value of £56m of leveraged support at a ratio of over 5:1 to HEFCE funding
  • During the course of academic year 2014-15, this enabled HEFCE-funded university museums to engage with:

4.5 million visitors

207,000 school students

37,000 university students

16,000 further education students


And, in addition:

Hold 222 exhibitions and 4,120 public events

Make available 515 national and 141 international loans of 7,938 museum objects

September 19, 2015

Call for nominations

The University Museums Group AGM is taking place on the afternoon of Wednesday, 23 September, as part of the UMG’s 2015 conference: Where Science and Society Meet on 23-24th September at Durham University.

At the AGM, one committee member will be standing down or two will be standing for re-election, and we will be holding elections to fill these vacancies.  We are seeking committee members with a range of experience and skills (such as event organisation, use of social media, PR and advocacy), who are prepared to play an active role in supporting the UMG’s work.

If you would like to be considered – or to nominate another member – for one of these vacancies, you are invited to put forward your nomination to Tonya Nelson, Secretary of the University Museums Group Committee.

Each nomination must include, in a single word document sent as an email attachment:

  • The name of the person being nominated and the member organisation they represent
  • The name of their proposer and his/her member organisation
  • The name of a seconder and his/her member organisation
  • A 250 word statement by the nominee, telling us about their experience and skills and what they will bring to the UMG Committee.

The above information will be circulated to UMG members with the AGM papers.

In the event of there being more nominees than vacancies, an election will be held by ballot at the AGM.  Member organisations who are unable to send a representative to the AGM will be able to nominate a representative of another member organisation or a committee member

Nominations for Committee membership should be emailed to Tonya Nelson at tonya.nelson@ucl.ac.uk by 12 noon on 21 September.


March 7, 2015

THE highlights role of University Museums

‘University Museums enjoy global renaissance’ is the headline of a recent article in Times Higher Education looking at the ways in which universities are redefining the role of museums and galleries as cultural providers.

Read the full article here.


September 20, 2014

Changes to subscription rates

At the UMG AGM in June 2014 a proposal to simplify the subscription scales was agreed.

The old scale was complicated, was not being consistently used and did not allow for individuals to join as members.

The new subscription rates simplify and improve the membership structure.  They are based on the following principles:

  • Membership of UMG should aim to further the reach of UMG within HEIs
  • Large museums/galleries should pay more than small ones
  • Membership scale should aim for transparency in the way that museums/galleries use the scale of memberships
  • The aim should be for a simple scheme what keeps administration to a minimum
  • The new system should aim to increase income from subscription fees, but not to a level that prohibits organisations from joining
  • new categories of individual member and student member should be created

The following new structure was agreed:

University with one participating university museum/gallery £50

University to 2/3 participating university museums/galleries £100

University with 4 or more particpating university museums/galleries £200

Individual members £50

Non-university museum organisations, UMIS and university museums outside the UK  £50

Student members £20


The revised subscription form is now available to download from the  JOIN page of the website.

March 13, 2014

Task Force for the Protection of University Collections

We would like to bring members’ attention to the existence of a Task Force for the Protection of University Collections established in 2009 under the umbrella of the AAMG – Association of Academic Museums and Galleries in the USA.

Catherine Giltrap, Trinity College Dublin, and Steph Scholten, Director of Heritage Collections at The University of Amsterdam have recently joined the Task Force to act as the first European Representatives.

Request for advance notification of risks to university collections in Europe

Catherine and Steph would like to request that UMG and UMIS colleagues inform them of potentially high risk situations where colleagues working with university museums, galleries and collections find themselves, or are aware of others, in a situation where the university is proceeding in a manner that treats the collections as ‘disposable assets’, such as proposing to sell objects or collections for reasons other than benefiting the development of the collections themselves and without due consultation with the appropriate local experts.

While the Task Force has no legal standing, what is offered is professional support at the highest of levels and a willingness to overtly exert pressure in the court of public opinion and to taking steps to make it difficult for universities to contemplate selling their collections for endowment or general operating support.

Please refer to this website for full details: http://www.aamg-us.org/about-us/task-force/

A full list of Task Force Members can be found at: http://www.aamg-us.org/about-us/task-force/members.php

ICOM UMAC resolution on the Protection of University Collections

At the ICOM UMAC meeting in August 2013, UMAC adopted a resolution in support of the work of the Task Force; the resolution is in keeping with ICOM’s Code of Ethics for Museums and the Council of Europe’s recommendation on the governance and management of university heritage, as well as the AAMD (Association of Art Museum Directors, USA) Professional Practices in Art Museums and the AAM (American Alliance of Museums)

April 11, 2013

What are university museums for? Presentations now available online

The UMG 25th anniversary conference, What are university museums for?, held at the Ashmolean Museum was a sellout success.

Speaker presentations are now available to download from this website, look under ‘case studies’.  You can also follow a link to the Oxford Aspire website to watch a video of each presentation.

March 25, 2013

Assistant Curator, University of Aberdeen

The post of Assistant Curator (Scientific Instruments Project) is now being advertised on the University of Aberdeen’s jobs page (www.abdn.ac.uk/jobs). For a  short link to the advert see: http://tinyurl.com/btl554s.

The University of Aberdeen requires an Assistant Curator to work on the Recognition Fund project ‘Discovering Scientific Instruments: improving access to the collection’ to significantly improve the documentation and storage of the University’s collection of over 3000 scientific instruments. We will engage experts in Aberdeen and elsewhere to share their knowledge to inventory and catalogue the collection and a further estimated 700 items that are currently completely inaccessible due to poor storage. A priority is building collaboration with museums and academics, with an inaugural seminar and then expert visits, culminating in a workshop/partnership event for other museums and experts to share knowledge and experiences. As this post is funded by a Museum Recognition Fund grant it will be offered for a period of 9 months. Salary will be at the appropriate point on the Grade 5 scale (£25,504 – £28,685 per annum), with placement according to qualifications and experience.

For further details, please contact Neil Curtis:  neil.curtis@abdn.ac.uk

March 6, 2013

What are University Museums For?

The 25th Anniversary Conference of the University Museums Group

Oxford University Museums 7-8th March 2013

This conference offers an opportunity to examine the value, impact and diversity of university museums.

Whilst reflecting on the contribution of university museums to the higher education sector over the last 25 years, the conference will focus on their role today, not just within Higher Education but also within the wider museum sector and society.

You can download the conference programme here.  UMG 25th anniversary conference programme

June 21, 2012

Virtual Restoration and Reconstruction in a London Charter Framework

Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, 10-20 September 2012

The UK Virtual Heritage School explores the theory and best practice in heritage visualisation. The school is offered by the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London, UK and is led by King’s Visualisation Lab (KVL), which specialises in the creation of digital visualisations for historical research, archaeology and cultural heritage. KVL is well known for its leadership in establishing and promoting international standards for such work, most notably through the London Charter for the Computer-based Visualisation of Cultural Heritage. The School syllabus is guided by the principles of this charter.

The School programme reflects the tutors’ expertise in 3D documentation and visual representation for archaeology, historic buildings, museums and historical research. Through a combination of demonstrations, workshops, lectures and field trips, the School provides a sound overview of the range of digital visualisation technologies and methods used in the area of cultural heritage and virtual museums. Postgraduate students, early-career researchers and cultural heritage professionals are particularly encouraged to attend. International participants are welcome if proficient in English.

The School runs for ten days and offers two paths: a theoretical strand, which can be taken alone (half-day), and a practical strand, which can be taken alongside the theoretical strand (full-day). The theoretical strand introduces participants to key topics in virtual cultural heritage and virtual museums, while the practical strand teaches participants how to use Open-Source digital image editing and 3D modelling software to virtually restore or reconstruct artefacts and monuments according to internationally-accepted principles of best practice. The School visualisation project will be concerned with the Roman(?) bath in Strand Lane, London. The School is run in co-operation with cultural institutions in central London and includes visits to the British Museum and University College London Museums and Collections.

The fees for the entire school are £150 (theory) or £350 (theory & practice).

Application deadlines: 31 July 2012 and 31 August 2012

For more information see:


The School is an activity of the Virtual Museums Transnational Network of Excellence (www.v-must.net). The Network is supported by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 2007/2013) under the Grant Agreement 270404.

June 21, 2012

Excavating Time

The programme for the Excavating Time conference, a collaboration between University Museums in Scotland and the Scottish Word & Image Group, is now available on the UMIS website at http://www.umis.ac.uk/conferences/conference2012_programme.html

February 17, 2012

Wrappers 2 project update

The JISC funded ‘Wrappers 2’ project, led by The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, recently completed its consultation activities with University Museum staff and users to look at issues for the resource discovery of University Museum collections, as part of the ‘Discovery’ programme (http://discovery.ac.uk/).

The consultation included online surveys and a Q&A session at the UMG conference.  Issues such as the scope of UK University Museum ‘collections’ data; terms of use for this kind of data; and potential features and audiences for new search-services are covered.

The findings should be of interest across the University Museum sector and can be found and commented on at: http://contextualwrappers2.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/consultation-findings/.

February 17, 2012

Excavating time – call for papers

Call for papers for 19th Annual Scottish Word and Image Group Conference

University of Dundee

Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July 2012

Excavating Time will consider the processes by which the past might be accessed, preserved, represented, interpreted or ‘fabricated’ through distinctive interactions between visual and verbal media.  The organisers are keen to encourage proposals for papers or panels from UMG members.

For more information see the attached summary document.  Excavating Time CFP

June 30, 2011

Controversial (Video) Material in Museums

Dear all

I am posting to seek advice/guidance on the handling of controversial materials in university museums.

Within the Theatre Collection, the Live Art Archives contain a certain amount of ‘controversial’ material, such as footage of performances which may include nudity and self-harm (I use this term loosely as the artists do not view it as this in the context of their work).

We are currently working on a project to make the video material from the National Review of Live Art archive which is part of the Live Art Archives available online – permissions allowing. As a result we are refining and developing  our access policy so that we are quite clear what material we are allowed  to put online under UK legislation, but also within the University regulations and other guidelines which we should adhere to.

For the material which we do make available online from the National Review, ‘controversial performances’ or not, we intend to have an over 18 log in (we abide by this age restriction/accompanying etc with visitors in person), however, because of the strong feelings surrounding censorship of this type of art, we are having to tread very carefully to ensure that we maximise the research potential of the online resource, deliver the best outcomes of the project to the funders (AHRC) and also maintain our good relationships with the artists involved, in addition to upholding the reputation of the University of Bristol.  Therefore – I’m currently trying to gather as much information as possible around the law and other institutions’ policies and experiences in similar situations.

Any advice you can offer would be very much appreciated. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a minefield ….. I get the impression that although other institutions are also beginning to tackle this issue no one has actually solved it yet, but I may be wrong – please let me know!

Please email me at bex.carrington@bristol.ac.uk (obviously posting to the list too if you wish).

I have already trawled through other guidance such as our own uni ethics policy, BBC/iplayer, Youtube, BBFC, plus the MA, MLA and CILIP, plus all the jolly interesting reading (!) around the Obscene Publications Act, Video Recordings Act etc.

Many thanks

Best wishes, Bex

May 11, 2011

Support for University Museums from Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport

Speaking at a gathering of senior figures in politics, higher education and museums in Westminster this week, Ivan Lewis, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, drew attention to the nationally important collections held by musuems in the UK’s universities and highlighted the international importance of institutions such as the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam, the Courtauld, the Sainsbury Centre and the Manchester Museum, all of which are part of universities.


Ivan Lewis giving his speech

Mr Lewis noted that the significant role played by university museums and galleries in the cultural life of the nation was insufficiently recognised, and that core funding through universities and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) had transformed their performance in recent years.

‘Although they comprise only 2% of museums in the country, university museums look after over 30% of collections designated as nationally or internationally important’, he said. ‘Over the last five years, university museums have increased public visits by 95%, schools visits by 57% and their use by further and higher education by 186%. This is a fantastic achievement that deserves to be better known’.

At a time of funding cuts, university museums are a beacon of success.

While in the past, universities sometimes felt their historic collections to be burdens, they are now seeing them as major assets in the competition to attract students, and as gateways to engaging with their local communities.

Some, such as the Ashmolean at Oxford University, have undergone major capital redevelopments, opening them up to much larger audiences, while others, such as UCL’s Petrie Museum, have developed a reputation for innovative work engaging hard-to-reach audiences.

Also speaking at the event, Dr Kate Pretty, Chair of the Joint Museums Committee at the University of Cambridge, said “in some areas, like mine, the university museums are almost the only museums in the region. Across the UK, the provision of free exhibitions in university museums enhances public knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment – the museums are accessible in all senses of the word – and it is clear that we would do more with enhanced funding for outreach and informal education”.

Mr David Sweeney, Director of Research at HEFCE, said “we are proud to have provided core funding over the last twenty years for the country’s most important university museums and are delighted at their increased determination to reach beyond their own university base to researchers, students and the public more generally. Higher Education nationally and internationally is enormously enriched by their contribution.”

The event, held on 4th May, was organised by the University Museums Group  to draw attention to the key role played by university museums and galleries within higher education and the wider community and to highlight the importance of the £10.45million in core funding currently provided by HEFCE to support these museums.   The briefing document provided to all those who attended can be downloaded here.

Briefing on University Museums and Galleries May 2011

For further information contact Dr Nick Merriman, Chair of the University Museums Group, Director, the Manchester Museum (0161 275 2649; nick.merriman@manchester.ac.uk)

April 8, 2011

Voices in (and around) the Museum

A series of four discursive events co-organised by the UCL Mellon Programme and UCL Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies

Wednesdays 6pm, May 4, 11, 18, 25, 2011 University College London

From being perceived as a collective resting place for mute objects and a silent, ocular-centric space to showcase them, the museum is increasingly called upon to account for the voices in its midst.  Objects are now widely understood to tell stories, speaking in different ways to different constituencies.  In turn, the voices of visitors, source communities, curators, collectors and makers – whether in the form of reminiscence, testimony, storytelling, myth or song – play an increasingly prominent role in determining the museum’s approach to knowledge production and dissemination.

This series of oral interventions – by architects, artists, curators, historians, musicians, theorists, and writers – aims to understand how the voices emanating from objects and subjects in the museum impact the institution’s traditional remit of researching, collecting and displaying objects. How do these voices condition the visitor’s affective and sensory experience? How do the narratives told by the museum through objects change over time? Which voices have been suppressed, and why? What can museums do to preserve the immaterial traces of the voice? And what new technologies and outreach strategies will be required to listen to and broadcast voices both in and outside of the museum?

Speakers include: Sarah Byrne (UCL Mellon Programme)

Debbie Challis (UCL Museums and Collections)

Emma Poulter (British Museum)

David Toop (London College of Communication)

Colin Fournier (UCL Bartlett School of Architecture)

Marysia Lewandowska (Konstfack, Sweden)

Sarah Lowry (Foundling Museum, London)

Steve Cross (UCL Public Engagement Unit)

Toby Butler (University of East London)

Paul Elliman (Yale School of Art)

Seph Rodney (The London Consortium)

Imogen Stidworthy (Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht)

Jack Maynard (Tate)

Linda Sandino (V&A and UAL)

Susan Hawkins (Kingston University London)

Hillary Young (Museum of London)

For more information visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/mellon-program/events/voices

Or contact Sarah Byrne:  s.byrne@ucl.ac.uk;  Anthony Hudek: a.hudek@ucl.ac.uk

December 17, 2010

‘Life without air conditioning?’

On 10 December 2010, the University Museums Group organised a seminar ‘Life Without Air Conditioning?’ at the University of Cambridge, which involved over 100 museum and gallery professionals, including senior figures in conservation and collections care in national museums and galleries, university museums and galleries, universities and consultants. The seminar was aimed at reviewing the current evidence provided by conservation science on the appropriate standards for the exhibition, loan and storage of museum and gallery objects. This is because in order to achieve current standards, it is necessary to specify the installation of air conditioning in all galleries which receive loans, which is undesirable at a time when we are more concerned about energy costs and the environment.

The papers and discussions at the seminar reviewed research over the last 15 years and recent discussions through the Bizot group and others (to download presentations see ‘Case Studies’).  At the conclusion the attached declaration was made and approved by all participants (save one abstention).   UMG seminar declaration Dec 2010

Participants agreed that the declaration should be circulated for comment and that other organisations should be invited to adopt it and implement it if they see fit.

Please email any comments to Nick Merriman, Chair of the University Museums Group, at nick.merriman@manchester.ac.uk by 1 February 2011.

December 15, 2010

UMG/NCCPE event: impact and evaluation – learning together

Great North Museum, University of Newcastle, 7th February 2012

We are now able to circulate details of the UMG Annual Conference to be held at the Great North Museum (GNM).  GMN opened in 2009  following a £26 million redevelopment project incorporating collections from the Hancock Museum and Newcastle University’s Museum of Antiquities, the Shefton Museum and the Hatton Gallery (http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/greatnorthmuseum/about/).

We are delighted that the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, who are lead experts in this field, have agreed to co-host this event with us. Full details of the programme are attached.

UMG NCCPE event programme

The event is aimed at any museum staff and academics who are interested in learning more about research impact and its evaluation, particularly in public contexts such as museums. The programme has bee designed to cater for people with all levels of experience of evaluation, from complete beginners to fairly expert.  Please forward this information to any colleagues or networks who may be interested in this event.

1. Directions to the Great North Museum


2. Accommodation

For delegates wishing to stay overnight Accommodation at the 4 * Sandman Signature Hotel (http://www.sandmansignature.co.uk/find-hotels/newcastle/) is available on 6th February 2012 at the special discounted rate of £75 including breakfast. To book at this special rate please contact 0191 229 2600 and quote ‘UMG/NCCPE Event: Impact and Evaluation: Learning Together’.

3. Event Booking

To book please use the following link to an online booking system:


4. Case Study Taster Session

As part of the UMG joint conference with NCCPE we will be holding a case study taster session, which is an opportunity for delegates to present and share a project they have developed and/or worked on with a small number of people in a round table discussion (of around 6-8 people).  We would like to invite applications, particularly from UMG and UMIS members and from academics with relevant experience of working with museums, interested in presenting a short informal case study of evaluation in practice.

Expression of interest to participate Case Study umg-nccpe event

Contact Kate Arnold-Forster ( k.arnold-forster@reading.ac.uk ) or Lisa Adlington of NCCPE (Lisa.Adlington@uwe.ac.uk)

Strategic investment in University Museums offers significant academic and societal benefits