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Trusted Source

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Oxford University

Image: The dome of the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford © Oxford University Images/Whitaker Studio

In this post Alice Purkiss (KTP Associate, National Trust & Oxford University), details a new collaboration between heritage professionals and university academics aimed at enhancing public engagement of National Trust properties and places through a formalised knowledge-exchange programme.  

At the beginning of February Oxford University embarked upon a new collaboration with the National Trust in a bid to enhance visitor experience at the charity’s historic properties and outdoor spaces through research.

Funded by the AHRC and the National Trust, the Trusted Source project is the culmination of a series of successful collaborations running over the past five years between the university and the Trust, coordinated by Oxford’s Heritage Engagement Fellow, Dr Oliver Cox. Oliver wrote a post for this blog on heritage partnerships and presented at the ENGAGE conference in 2014.

Trusted Source has been commissioned as a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), an Innovate UK scheme devised to encourage businesses to innovate and grow. It does this by linking them with a university and a graduate to work on a specific project. Usually awarded to the science and industry sectors, this is one of the few heritage-based KTPs funded in the initiative’s 40 year history, and the first awarded to both the Humanities Faculty at Oxford and the National Trust. In addition to myself, Oliver and Charles Pugh (National Trust Curator & Consultancy Manager), the Trusted Source project team is comprised of specialists and advisors from both institutions.

What is Trusted Source?

This partnership’s aim is to create a new online resource on the National Trust’s website containing concise, engaging and accessible articles about history, culture and the national environment that draw out connections between collections, places, properties and people. Crowdsourced from university researchers and National Trust specialists, this resource aims to enhance visitor experience of National Trust properties and places. Furthermore, in doing this the project aims to encourage more meaningful public engagement with, and enhanced understanding of, Britain’s wider cultural heritage and natural environment.

As a key advocate for the project, the National Trust’s Director General, Dame Helen Ghosh, states:

"We want to tell the stories of the collections and properties in our care in an engaging, accurate and inspiring way. Using the latest academic research, Trusted Source will help us enhance the experience we give our members and visitors, uncover new information and deepen our understanding of the heritage in our care. As well as enriching our interpretation at properties, the resources created during this important collaborative partnership will be freely available online for everyone to explore."

Who benefits?

It’s important to stress that the National Trust’s visitors are not the only intended beneficiaries of Trusted Source; the opportunities the project offers to university researchers are significant too. In addition to providing research and networking opportunities with a leading cultural institution, the Trusted Source project offers its contributors meaningful work experience and visibility within a highly competitive sector that is increasingly hard to come by.

The articles are authored, and contributors are given an ‘Author Profile’ page on the National Trust’s website featuring a short biography and a list of the articles they have written. With the Trust’s website receiving over 11 million page hits every year, becoming a contributor offers researchers an exciting opportunity for meaningful and measurable public engagement with their research. The first articles are now live on the National Trust’s website here, commissioned to support the current Landscape programme at Stowe Gardens in Buckinghamshire.

Blueprint for collaboration

The project’s legacy beyond the two years of the KTP is highly significant, and a central consideration for both institutions. By formalising a clear methodology for sharing knowledge between these two leading organisations, we hope to establish a blueprint for collaboration that can be adopted by other academic institutions and heritage organisations internationally, thereby encouraging further stories about places to be told and enriched through research.

Want to know more or get involved?

If you would like to learn more about the Trusted Source project and other collaborations at Oxford University, please contact alice.purkiss@history.ox.ac.uk or visit www.torch.ox.ac.uk/trusted-source

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