You are warmly invited to join a roundtable discussion to explore how researchers across museums and universities can work together to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing research landscape.

The idea of what comprises ‘research’, who and what this involves, and its impact and responsibilities have undergone a significant change in the twenty-first century. Researchers are encouraged to be more outward facing, collaborative and enterprising. This has changed the kinds of research we do, as well as the places it is performed. Academic research has always been central to university life, but increasingly it has been recognised as an integral function of the museum: underpinning the care, display and understanding of collections; the content of exhibitions and programming; and the museum’s relationship with its audiences.

With interventions from funding bodies, museum research has become more formalised, more academic, and the boundaries between the university and museum worlds have become permeable. Alongside this shift, the role of museums in society has been increasingly questioned, with calls to decolonise, diversify, and democratise museum practice, offering challenges and opportunities for new museum-based researchers. In higher education institutions the research landscape is also changing, where the Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise, with its emphasis on impact and knowledge exchange, is shaping the research agenda. 

Despite these different institutional pulls, researchers in museums and universities have more in common than ever, sharing a commitment to learning from the past to engage critically with the present and imagine a different future. Working in complex, bureaucratic institutions also shapes how responsive researchers can be to the challenging cultural and social issues they can encounter. As such, this evolving research environment has the potential to generate new opportunities to rethink traditional boundaries between scholarship and practice-based research, and to imagine new synergies for cross-sector collaborations that will benefit both fields and, crucially, the communities we all serve. 

Chaired by Domenico Sergi (Senior Research Lead, Museum of London), this roundtable discussion brings together Jeremy D. Hill (Head of Research, British Museum), Joanna Norman (Director, V&A Research Institute), Saskia Huc-Hepher (Reader in Diasporic & Digital French Studies, University of Westminster) and Xiao Ma (Doctoral Researcher, University of Westminster).

Before opening the floor for discussion, the panel will respond to the following points:

  • The similarities and differences in the research agenda of cultural institutions and universities, and on how we can better understand and support each other;
  • Strategies for a sustainable and ethical approach to working with local and global communities;
  • The future of cross-sector collaborations;
  • The skills, experience and expertise the next generation of researchers will need to navigate this increasingly complex research landscape.

Find out more here.