Almost 450,000 items from 17 national museums in the UK were on loan to a global network of museums, galleries and institutions last year, a new report has revealed.
The National Museums Partnership Report shows that in total, the items loaned were seen by more than 33 million visitors, and informed more than 1300 research projects with partner institutions.
The national museums in the UK hold world-class collections, amounting to around 275 million objects, and are some of the most generous lending institutions in the world.
In the UK alone, over 750 regional museums and galleries benefited from the national museums lending of more than 60,000 items, a critical part of the two way partnerships that exist across the sector. In turn these were seen by more than 18.5 million visitors, delivering a welcome boost to local economies.
The loans are a tremendous way of allowing audiences around the world to encounter, experience and engage with the national collection. Last year 17 UK national museums and galleries toured 41 exhibitions to 79 international venues, drawing crowds of more than 7 million people. When combined with the wider programme of loans, this activity makes a huge contribution to the UK’s soft power standing and cultural diplomacy work.
In particular, international short-term loans from the national collections support the GREAT Britain campaign, the UK Government’s flagship promotional campaign to encourage people to visit, do business, invest and study in the UK.
Arts Minister Rebecca Pow said:
“We know that our fantastic national museums are a cultural magnet that attract millions of visitors from around the world every year. I’m delighted to see that by loaning objects to local, regional and international galleries, last year more than 33 million extra people got to enjoy and engage with treasures from our national collection. It’s UK soft power at its best, and benefits all those involved in these innovative partnerships.”
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery added:
“The Partnership Report highlights the incredible work being done by the National Museums to share their collections throughout the UK and abroad, giving opportunities for new and diverse audiences to access our unique art and heritage. At the National Portrait Gallery we are proud of our long history of partnership activity both nationally and internationally. Our recently launched Coming Home initiative, will send 50 portraits of iconic individuals to places across the UK with which they are closely associated. During the past year our international programme, including the flagship exhibition Tudors to Windsors, has toured to Europe, the USA and Australia and been seen by over 400,000 people. We hope that sharing our Collection in this way will create a personal connection for visitors to British history helping us to fulfil our aim of being truly a national gallery for everyone.”
In addition to items loaned for display purposes, last year our national museums had more than 370,982 items on loan to thousands of institutions around the world. This is a clear demonstration of the significant contribution they make to UK research and development efforts through the extensive networks and partnerships their scientists, curators and other experts have with the global research community. The national collection is being used to unlock new information crucial to addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the human race today, including climate change, the control of neglected and emerging tropical diseases and invasive species, and ensuring sustainable agriculture and space exploration.
Alongside the actual lending of objects for research, our national museums reported forming at least 2,584 partnerships for research and other academic activity in 2017/18. These partners are spread across the world, with 1,025 in the UK and 1,559 internationally and are comprised of universities, other museums, research organisations, and libraries amongst others.
Director of the Natural History Museum, Sir Michael Dixon commented:
“As custodians of the world’s most important natural history collection, it is of paramount importance to us that it is shared with researchers worldwide to help find solutions to the many challenges facing the planet. Last year alone, we shared 43,000 specimens with researchers in 60 countries and our Digital Collections Programme enabled 6.5 billion downloads of specimen records for use by scientists and the public.”
The Museum Partnership Report also sets out how the UK’s national museums are supporting and helping build the capacity of the UK museum sector through formal training and learning programmes. These partnerships help support resilience in the museum sector as a whole, and also contribute to the professional development of individual museum professionals. The national museums are part of a wider eco-system of museum partnerships, and this report also seeks to highlight the ways the whole museums sector uses partnerships to broaden cultural participation and attract new audiences, provide learning and educational opportunities, improve health and wellbeing, and develop skills and careers.
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