Research enriches our work and pushes back the frontiers of what we know. IWM curators are drawn into discussions on the meaning of artefacts and what they contribute to our ability to understand and conceptualise the past. The memory of conflict, how that is constructed and how it impacts on successive generations has been under discussion for nearly two decades now – the IWM conscious of it role as a shaper of public memory while at the same time having the distance to critique that role. Museum practice provides another area for investigation: IWM sees thousands of schoolchildren arrive each day as part of their national curriculum studies. How best to provide for their often wide-ranging needs in an engaging and sustainable way affords numerous lines of enquiry.
We aim to deepen dialogue in all these spheres and more – both to import fresh ideas and to benefit from the sharing of knowledge that contact with universities can bring to our curatorial work and public programmes.
Conflict since 1914 is taught in most universities in the UK, and there are consequently many academics and students in the UK wishing to engage with IWM and its collections. History has tended to be the prevailing discipline in the past but today we are more interdisciplinary and engage with the new intellectual climate with questions that challenge long-held assumptions – a process which in turn brings vitality and ‘the unexpected’ to our public programmes.
The international nature of our subject matter means that there are regular opportunities for dialogue with academics overseas and the Department Research and Academic Partnerships which leads research across IWM, places particular emphasis on this.