Tuesday, 09 June 2015 07:35

The future is bright

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This Friday, I will leave the Collections Trust after nearly 11 years to take up a new role as the Chief Executive of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). As is customary when moving on to pastures new, I have spent a lot of the past week thinking about how things have changed over the past decade, and what lies ahead for our profession. 

When I joined the Collections Trust in 2004 (when it was still the Museum Documentation Association) the Government was investing in regional museums through the Renaissance in the Regions programme, we were getting to grips with the challenge of digitising collections and sharing them online and the Heritage Lottery Fund was investing in modernising our heritage infrastructure and making it accessible for more people than ever. 

Copyright (C) Jane Webster, 2014, the Collections Trust opened up a series of discussions about the potential for developing shared approaches to the stewardship, management and development of heritage collections. The resulting paper, 'Towards a National Collections Management Framework' drew on the concept of a Distributed National Collection to highlight some of the benefits of greater coordination.

Friday, 05 June 2015 11:17

Benchmarking Participation - Benchmarking Tool

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Since March, the Collections Trust has been working with Natalie James (@CulturewithaK) on a project to understand participation and engagement in museums and to develop a Benchmarking Tool to support museums wishing to adopt more participatory practice.

Following the publication of the project report and findings, we have been working to develop an Excel-based Benchmarking Participation Tool, which we are now inviting museum professionals to use, test and evaluate. 

Monday, 18 May 2015 09:29

Benchmarking Participation - Project Report

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This article presents the findings and interim project report of the Benchmarking Participation Project, led by Natalie James (@CulturewithaK) on behalf of the Collections Trust. 

As reported in the previous project update, the Collections Trust is working with Natalie James on 'Benchmarking Participation', an innovative project which aims to examine what being ‘participatory’ means in practice for museums, how it is expressed in the culture and governance of the museum and how participation and engagement can help a museum achieve its stated goals.

Monday, 13 April 2015 07:51

Benchmarking Participation in Museums

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As educational institutions, museums play a unique role in connecting people through heritage and identity. While many people are content simply to visit and enjoy an aesthetic experience of museums, an increasing number are seeking more involved, participatory experiences that offer depth, connection and meaning.

Participation provides an opportunity for museums to strengthen their relationship with their visitors, providing a deeper sense of engagement and encouraging long-term commitment to the organisation. By encouraging community partnership, museums can prove their relevance and value amongst increasingly competitive leisure and entertainment options for audiences.

In this letter, Peter Barwell, Registrar at Bloxham Village Museum shares his experience of using Museum Freecycle to source a replacement for his Donations jar. For more information and to join the free Museum Freecycle network, visit

When I first read about Museum Freecycle, I was so excited because having been the registrar of Bloxham Village Museum for 15 years I have never had any funds to use for buying anything. Like all little Museums we have to go on the cadge for funds to acquire anything.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015 00:46

Disobedient Objects at the V&A

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A 'Bike Bloc' - a rolling blockade used in protest marches, on display at Disobedient Objects at the V&A, 2015Nick Poole takes a look at 'Disobedient Objects', the current temporary exhibition at the V&A which runs until the 1st February 2015.

Disobedient Objects is the latest temporary exhibition at the V&A, housed within the flexible space of the Porter Gallery, just to the left of the main entrance lobby. 

I've always loved the Porter Gallery - it's easy to access and provides a flexible space which the V&A has used imaginitively to explore an ever-changing range of contemporary art movements and ideas. It is also a blank canvas, which has clearly provided a challenge to the curator, Catherine Flood - how to turn this large room into an experience which both reflects the chaos of activism while also providing a sense of narrative. 

From centuries-old specimens to entirely new types of specialized collections like frozen tissues and genomic data, the American Museum of Natural History's scientific collections (with more than 33,000,000 specimens and artifacts) form an irreplaceable record of life on Earth, the span of geologic time, and knowledge about our vast universe.

In this first episode of a new series called 'Shelf Life', staff at the museum explore some of the weird and wonderful things in their collections, and talk about how you can discover new science in the collections just as easily as you can in the field.

Wednesday, 07 January 2015 08:44

Spotlight on: MDA Codes Featured

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Did you know that the Collections Trust (and its predecessor body the MDA) has maintained a system of unique identifiers for UK museums for nearly 40 years?

Known as 'MDA Codes', this system assigns a unique 5-letter code to identify each museum (or group of museums or sites). The code can be used alongside the accession number of an object to provide a persistent connection between the object and the museum.

Friday, 12 December 2014 10:31

Best museum jokes

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Since 2014 is nearly over, we thought we'd bring some festive cheer with our 20 favourite museum-based jokes. Do you know a better one? Share it here via the comments or on twitter using the hashtag #museumjoke. We found a few of these via the fabulous #artjokes hashtag from 2013, so do check that out on twitter!

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has recently announced a new Open Data Challenge focused on Culture and Heritage. The challenge encourages designers, coders, companies and cultural heritage organisations to work together to come up with creative ideas in response to the challenge "How can we use open data to engage more people, and more diverse people, in UK heritage and culture".

Monday, 08 December 2014 08:39

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere

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Collections Trust CEO Nick Poole explores how wearables and the Internet of Things are bringing the museum without walls to reality.

Picture the scene. You're walking down the street when your watch buzzes subtly on your wrist, alerting you to an exhibition of your favourite artist that opens today in the gallery down the road. You've just parked your car and watched the automated parking registration ping on your dashboard when the GPS screen asks if you want to know more about the local history in the area you've just reached. You take your kids to see a local ruin and watch as they use the heads-up display on their glasses to explore a virtual reconstruction in time and space.

In a time of economic pressure and increased competition for funding, it is more important than ever that collections professionals are able to create compelling and successful grant proposals.

The Collections Trust has led grant proposals worth more than £15m since 2008, and our staff are regularly invited to work with funders as assessors and advisers to new grant programmes. In this Powerpoint presentation, Collections Trust CEO Nick Poole explores what it takes to create an effective grant proposal for a collections-based project, what to avoid and where to look for funding support.

Friday, 21 November 2014 16:12

Museum Freecycle

freecycle-logoSince its conception in June 2014, Museum Freecycle has grown from strength to strength. There are now over 200 individual members of the group which ranges from the small independent museum to the large national museum.

Monday, 10 November 2014 11:02

Collections Trust Seminar - Manchester

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photo: Manchester seminarLast Thursday saw the Collections Trust team head to Manchester for the latest in our series of 'Collections Trust Seminars' - one-day workshops for museum professionals and volunteers to learn more about our work and how it can help them do more with their collections.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:40

Where next for Culture Grid?

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The Culture Grid ( was established in 2006 to promote the discovery and use of digital information being produced through museum, archive and library digitisation. Since then it has grown into a platform providing access to almost 3m unique records illustrating the breadth and depth of cultural heritage from nearly 130 partners across the UK.

In terms of scale, the Culture Grid has been a great success. It has also been a success in terms of the less visible aspects of aggregating large quantities of cultural heritage metadata. It has helped promote the use of standards, enabled Collections Managers to make the case for improving the quality of their metadata and provided opportunities for developers, hackers and makers to remix cultural information into prototypes and demonstrators.

Sunday, 28 September 2014 13:46

Resilience and Museums

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This article by Collections Trust CEO Nick Poole is based on a presentation on 'Resilient Things' given at the London Museums Group event on Thursday 18th September. The original slides can be viewed on this page or downloaded from

I first became aware of the use of the word 'resilient' in relation to museums about two years ago, when the Arts Council England started using it to describe the development of some of their strategic programmes. It occurred to me that while I had been broadly aware of resilience as a concept, I had never really considered what it actually meant, or more specifically what it should mean to museums.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 08:46

Celebrating the success of Europeana Inside

logo: EU-INSIDEThe Europeana Inside project formally comes to a close on September 30th 2014 and last Wednesday the Collections Trust held a launch event at the Museum of London for the ECK (Europeana Connection Kit) which has been created and developed through the project.

Friday, 19 September 2014 07:42

The problem with Value

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Collections Trust CEO Nick Poole explores the problems associated with quantifying the value and impact of culture and the arts.

Everybody, it seems, is at it. In academic schools and policy organisations, think tanks and Government departments, an army of people are busying themselves trying to establish the Unified Field Theory reconciling public investment of the arts and culture with the production of tangible and intangible forms of value.

For some time now, ever since the comprehensive and inconclusive report Measuring the Value of Culture: A Report to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (O'Brien, 2010), the UK's museum sector has been chasing the magic formula through which to express the social, economic and political impact and value of museums.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014 14:10

SPECTRUM standard launched in Brazil

The team responsible for translating and localising SPECTRUM for BrazilMarcello Mattos Araujo, State Secretary of Culture for Sao Paulo in Brazil has announced the adoption of the SPECTRUM standard by Brazilian museums at an event this week attended by Collections Trust CEO Nick Poole.

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