Days at the museum

I really do like museums. I’m particularly fond of university museums and was therefore pleased to learn recently that there is a group dedicated to supporting and promoting the university museum sector. The University Museums Group or UMG is concerned with the 100 or so university museums in the UK regularly accessible to the public together with a further 300 or more that are used mainly for academic research and teaching. (I really had no idea there were so many.)




supports and advocates for the university museum sector in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Working alongside our sister organisation UMIS (University Museums in Scotland) we represent the interests of university museums to funders and stakeholders. We also maintain close links with the international body for university museums, UMAC.

Since its formation, UMG has established an international reputation for its leadership in advocacy of the sector by promoting the interests of university museums to Government, Arts Council and national organisations such as the Museums Association and higher education funding bodies.

University museums in England comprise 4% of the UK museum sector, yet they are custodians of 30% of all the collections ‘Designated’ by DCMS as being of national or international importance.

At the University of Nottingham our Museum’s mission is to “curate and widen access to the collections in its care, disseminate archaeological knowledge and lead in best practice through display, public engagement, education, research and publication” and has a substantial programme of activities to deliver all of this.

The specific aims of the Museum are to:

Plan and deliver an expanded programme of outreach activities using a range of interpretive methods and creative engagements in order to reach a wide and extended audience

Develop and deliver an enhanced programme of education activities targeting participants of all ages and abilities

Lead, encourage and enable opportunities for researching Museum collections

Train and develop volunteers (members of the public, students and staff) to work directly with the collections, and to cascade their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to others

Deliver opportunities for student engagement through study and research of the collections, and assist them to share their knowledge and understanding with the community.

In addition to exhibitions, partnerships and events the Museum offers a good range of learning opportunities, for postgraduates, undergraduates and school students. The Museum has an extensive programme for students that includes study, research and a Volunteer Training programme. It is also a programme that continues to grow and develop with a wider range of departments. Students have gained places on courses, in museums and in university academic departments.

The substantial widening participation programme supports many school visits each year as well as a large outreach programme to Nottinghamshire schools, summer schools and other school holiday activities.

The Museum has a collection of archaeological artefacts from Nottinghamshire and the wider East Midlands. The strength of these collections is in their original everyday use which introduces us to everyday life over a very wide period of time.

Following recent exhibitions including ‘A Greek in Egypt’, developed around the British Museum Sunken Cities exhibition featuring an archaic statue of a hunter from Naukratis, and ‘The Medieval World in Colour’, which explored the medieval world through the colours used and encountered in everyday life, the Museum now has ‘Viking: Rediscover the Legend’. This exhibition brings together nationally and internationally significant Saxon and Viking collections from the British Museum and York Museum Trust along with current research to provide a new perspective on how the Vikings transformed and shaped every aspect of life in Britain.

University museums are generally not a prominent aspect of campus life. But they do clearly add a huge amount to many dimensions of university operations. It’s all hugely impressive and really great to see the extraordinary range of activity at the University of Nottingham’s Museum and the amazing diversity of UMG member museums.

One response to “Days at the museum

  1. I agree that museums are a really valuable resource and I’ve greatly enjoyed visiting both the museum and public arts spaces at Nottingham. UCL has a really interesting, research-led approach to engaging students in their museums called object-based learning:

    It would be interesting to hear from other universities about their approaches to engaging the public and their student community using their museums and collections.

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