The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (HBMCE) was established by the National Heritage Act 1983, and until 31 March 2015 was known as English Heritage.
On 1 April 2015 English Heritage separated into two organisations:
- Historic England, the public body that champions and protects England’s historic environment
- The English Heritage Trust, a charity that, under license from HBMCE, looks after the National Heritage Collection consisting of 400 historic sites, such as Stonehenge and Dover Castle
The two organisations collaborate on research, but research themes and projects are managed separately.
Historic England is the public body that looks after England's historic environment. We do this by:
- Championing historic places
- Identifying and protecting our heritage
- Supporting change
- Understanding historic places
- Providing expertise at a local level
Historic England aspires to be a world leader in the study of the historic environment and its sustainable management. We want to encourage and undertake research of the highest calibre, to provide an evidence-base for government policies, practical guidance for owners and managers, and inspiration for society as a whole.
Our research work is informed by our Corporate Plan which responds to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport objectives set out in the Culture White Paper 2016 andthe Digital Strategy 2017), and also to the strategic aims of the Departments of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Communities and Local Government, and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Our research is, in addition, cognisant of relevant Research Council strategic objectives. We undertake and encourage research to ensure that we can protect the nation’s heritage more effectively, including built, buried and submerged sites and landscapes, and make it more widely understood and appreciated.
The English Heritage Trust aspires to provide an authentic experience of the past, and to be a leader in the practice of management and conservation of sites and collections. We are responsible for the practical care, management and presentation of over 400 sites, that together form the National Heritage Collection. These range from prehistoric sites such as Stonehenge right through to places associated with familiar events and people from history, such as the site of the Battle of Hastings, or the house of scientist Charles Darwin. We curate unique collections at more than 100 properties.
English Heritage has 4 major priorities: Inspiration, Conservation, Involvement and Financial Sustainability. Across its nationwide collection of sites, English Heritage will over the next ten years reveal the story of England as never before:
- At our major sites, we will deliver inspirational projects of the highest quality, demonstrating a creative flair that captures the public’s imagination
- We will embark on the largest conservation programme in our history, engaging the public as this work progresses
- We will comprehensively refresh the interpretation of the free, small and medium-sized sites within our care
- These combined programmes of work will bring the story of England to life for millions of people who visit our sites each year – and will do so in a way that no other organisation can.
HBMCE is recognised as a significant research organisation. We are an Independent Research Organisation recognised by the UK Research Councils and a government-recognised Public Sector Research Establishment (PSRE). PSREs provide key scientific and technical inputs into the process of policy- and decision-making. They are positioned between the higher education sector on one hand and commercially funded research and development on the other to help maximise the benefits of public investment in research.
We deliver research through two main channels:
- In-house research: we employ specialists some of whom are regarded as leaders in their field nationally and internationally
- Collaborative research: we work with many partners to combine our expertise with that of the wider sector.
The research landscape is changing, driven by the opportunities and challenges presented by a changing world, new research technologies and changing funding models. This places a value on developing and strengthening partnerships within and outside of the heritage sector, including with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Public Sector Research Establishments. The research we do and encourage is ‘applied research’ that supports our statutory duties and powers – it has a practical focus that offers unique opportunities for partners to contribute to and demonstrate genuine societal benefits and real-world impact.
We work with, and aim to build research partnerships with other organisations to:
- maximise the impact of our own resources by combining them with others
- influence the research approaches of others to secure benefits for historic environment management
- access expertise not available within our own organisation, or within the heritage sector
- access emerging technologies to support our work where it is not appropriate for us to be an early adopter
- transfer knowledge and expertise into the sector to assist other organisations in undertaking research
Our approaches to collaboration include:
- formal research partnerships with Higher Education Institutions individually and through consortia
- providing supervision of post-graduate degrees
- staff participation in collaborative projects
- providing access to specialist collections and archives
- providing comment, advice, guidance and standards
- providing office facilities for project partners
We have identified a number of Research Themes which encompass the range of research activities that we believe will have the greatest impact on understanding, protecting, enjoying or championing our historic environment. By publishing these themes we want to show how our research supports our core roles as government advisor and licensed manager of the National Heritage Collection; as well as inspire and encourage partners to identify shared areas of interest and establish partnership working on research issues that we can’t ourselves undertake.
The themes are:
#value - Understanding the value of heritage to society
#understand - Discovering and understanding our heritage and assessing its significance
#diversify - Celebrating the cultural diversity of England
#adapt - Understanding risks, change and opportunities
#conserve – Caring for England’s most important heritage
#inform - Improving and developing heritage information management
#skill – Supporting and improving the heritage sector
#inspire – Inspiring others with our research
#innovate – Developing technology and tools
A fuller presentation of these themes is available at HistoricEngland.org.uk/research/agenda