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Museum University Partnerships Initiative Pilot

objects of invention

The Museum University Partnerships Initiative (MUPI) pilot project ran from October 2015-March 2016. It aimed to maximise the potential for museums and universities to work together to mutually beneficial aims. The pilot project specifically focussed on how the Higher Education sector can be opened up to smaller and medium sized museums whose unique collections and engagement expertise are often an underutilised resource that could benefit academics, teaching staff, and students within the Higher Education sector, whilst adding value to the work of the museums involved and contributing to their long term resilience. 

The MUPI project was funded by the Arts Council England (ACE) and was a partnership between the NCCPE and Share Academy with support from Durham University.

  • Background
    • The past ten years have seen profound changes in how universities engage with the public. Driven by increasing pressures to deliver ‘impactful’ research and high quality student experience, museums and art galleries have emerged as natural partners for universities seeking to reach non-academic audiences for their research and engagement activities. Museums too have been seeking to enhance their research capability and to improve their interpretation of collections; to develop new audiences, and to meet the challenges of the current economic climate and decreasing public subsidy. This has encouraged them to seek new partnerships to enhance their work and build their resilience.    
    • It is a good time to take stock of these partnerships and address how best to effect a system change in how museums and universities work together for mutual benefit: how to enable a wider group of organisations to get involved, and how funders can support the system to work effectively to build resilience and impact in the museum and university sectors and enhance the impact and efficiency of their investments.
  • Objectives
    • There were three main objectives for this pilot project

    • ~ Explore the potential of museums and universities working together across one or more of the following themes by hosting sandpit events with museum staff and researchers and supporting activity inspired through these events.

    • ~ Gain better insight of the activity already happening across England relevant to museum university partnerships.

    • ~ Convene a funders’ strategic group to help align interventions that build effective Museum-University partnerships.

MUPI Activities

  • Sandpits
    • We piloted a sandpit format to bring together museum and university staff to explore potential collaborations. Delegates were able to bid for seed corn funding to support the development of their partnership work. Two sandpit events were held in January 2016 and covered:

    • Business: Museums engaging with university business schools to enhance resilience, and contribute to researcher/ undergraduate skills

    • Collections: Universities engaging with museum’s collections, in order to maximise the potential of research to animate understanding and interpretation of museum artefacts and facilitate their use across different contexts

    • Engagement: University researchers working with museums to create public engagement activity (face to face events; exhibitions; commentary etc.) to contribute to and enhance the impact of their research

    • Audience insight: partnership projects to better understand the interests and needs of museum audiences, and how to meet them

    • International: how might world-leading research engage with world leading collections?
  • Research
  • Funders' meeting
    • A meeting was held in February 2016 to bring together key funders from heritage and Higher Education sectors, including leading Trusts and Foundations e.g. ACE, HEFCE, AHRC, ESRC. The meeting aimed to:

    • ~ Encourage sharing of aims, approaches, and future direction, informed by the successful launch of a similar Funders Forum for Public Engagement in STEM

      ~ Explore potential opportunities about if and how to align their work to meet their aims

    • ~ Commission activity to inform their work e.g. exploring the current flow of funding for the identified activities and explore if and how the outcomes meet the objectives of the funders

    • ~ Develop partnerships with other funders interested in supporting museum and university partnerships
  • Event
    • We hosted a MUPI event in March 2016, to provide an opportunity to find out more about the project and to input into its future development.
    • You can find out more here.

The MUPI pilot project is now complete. If you would like further information please see our three reports, linked to below.

The NCCPE are delighted to annouce that they have received funding from the Arts Council to build on the approach piloted here. You can find out more about the MUPI project here. 

The photograph shows an example of museum university partnership - a finalist in the Engage 2014 competition. You can find out more about Objects of Invention here.