The National Museum of Wales encompasses seven major museums across Wales. Together, these sites give the Museum its unique inter-disciplinary character, enabling it to use its collections to research a wide range of areas, including industry, art, natural science, history and culture. We are a major repository of Wales’s national treasures, which are held in trust for the nation. This includes a significant tradition of research of national and international importance which has helped to release the knowledge inherent in our collections. Our goal is to draw on and nurture this research to create, develop and maintain a world-class museum of learning. To this end, we are currently developing a new Research Strategy that will link our research to our Vision, and provide guidance and shape to our various strands of research expertise.
As well as contributing to national and international research scholarship, we aim to use our research for the education of the public and the development of a strong knowledge-based economy and society in Wales. Through the collection, recording, preservation, elucidation and presentation of objects and associated knowledge, whether connected or not with Wales, our research aims to enhance and deepen public understanding and the promotion of an informed citizenry. In this way, research contributes to our Vision: to inspire people to find a sense of well-being and identity, to discover, enjoy and learn bilingually, and to understand Wales’ place in the wider world.
Research is fundamental to everything that we do as a national museum. It informs policy at the Museum, delivers our public programmes, enables the presentation of our collections online, supports and enhances conservation of our heritage assets, enhances public knowledge and understanding of Wales and its place in the world, contributes to global understanding and provides results that help to manage the environment sustainably.
Our research differs from that pursued by universities and similar institutions because of its object-based nature, providing a sustained expertise and knowledge base that is elsewhere being eroded. We therefore aim to nurture, strengthen and promote the research insights that our unique collections can generate. At the same time, we wish to contribute to emerging knowledge and understanding of how museums can become more inclusive and participatory. To that end, our research also investigates how diverse populations can more actively access, learn from, contribute to and benefit from the resources we offer.
We are currently in the process of building a number of exciting, cross-disciplinary relationships with the major universities in Wales, and have ambitions to extend these networks beyond our borders. Whilst Museum curators and staff have always worked with national and international partners, we are now formalising university partnerships that can generate a wider range of shared activities and mutual benefits. Through Memoranda of Understanding, cross-institutional Open Days, collaborative workshops, joint teaching activities and combined research events, we can pool resources to pursue research of mutual benefit. Our aim is not only to contribute to scholarship and knowledge within Wales’ institutional contexts, but also to position the Museum within wider networks of regional, national and international research collaborators. This will enable us to extend our comparative and cross-context research to explore and illuminate a rich variety of connections and flows of ideas across Wales and other parts of the globe.
At the same time, the Museum is reaching out to non-traditional and non-visiting social groups whose needs may be overlooked by institutionally-based partnerships. To further the wider relevance of our research, we will build new research agendas that engage more closely with the aspirations and situations of ‘ordinary’ people. To this end, the Museum is working with a range of community partners and NGOs to develop projects in which ordinary people can get involved. In pursuing high-level, collections-based research that contributes to wider scholarly circles, we also seek to extend the reach and accessibility of this research through experimenting with citizen-centred forms of dissemination and engagement. Further, research agendas can be co-created with citizens and communities, to enable them to ask and answer the complex questions that modern life throws up. In this, we are aware of the dangers of simplistic and mechanistic models of participation. Instead, we aim to build shared spaces of co-inquiry that are enduring, meaningful, empowering and critically engaged with the issues that affect people’s lives – past, present and future.