Collections Stories

Group portrait of Inuit girls and women 1854, National Maritime Museum


What happens when a national museum goes beyond a simple object loan, and works closely with its loan recipients to push the boundaries of programming and find out more about audiences around the country?

Collections Stories was a partnership between Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) and four regional partner museums: Historic Dockyard Chatham, Time and Tide Museum, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, and Beacon Museum. RMG worked collaboratively with each partner to support and facilitate the loan of a nationally significant object from its collection, and associated dynamic and experimental programming. The core aim of the project was for both partners to increase and diversify audiences and to gain new knowledge and understanding about them.

I worked with RMG to pull together the different strands of evaluation embedded into each partnership project, and to assess its impact on the professional development of the staff involved, on each museum’s understanding of different audiences and on the audiences themselves.

The project demonstrates a successful model for national-regional partnerships to extend the reach of national collections and engage new and diverse audiences with local and national heritage. It also responds successfully to the challenges set by the Mendoza review – the independent review of museums in England, commissioned by the DCMS in 2017.

It impacted significantly on RMG, the regional partners and audiences nationally. Displays explored maritime histories through new perspectives, challenged misconceptions, raised new questions, and made connections with contemporary communities. New and more diverse audiences attended each museum. Learning, Interpretation, Curatorial and Collections staff  gained new skills, understanding and confidence in public programming, interpreting ‘hidden’ and sensitive histories, audience development, national object loans, sector and day-to-day working practices, evaluation, leadership and partnership processes. Audience perceptions of museums were challenged and the profile and status of partner museums raised. Existing partnerships were strengthened and important new partnerships and relationships formed.