University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

The Value of University Museums

As we wait for the outcome of the government’s Spending Review at the end of this month, it merits consideration of how our museums contribute to society in a wide range of important ways.

Each year our eight museums and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden welcome more than 700,000 visitors – we provide the main museum service to the city, region, and to the many tourists who visit Cambridge throughout the year.  We run programmes and events tailored for families, for adult learners and a wide range of other groups and individuals, and we are committed to reaching new audiences and addressing the barriers that prevent people engaging with our collections.  Over the last three years we have made significant progress in this commitment, and with continued support from Arts Council England we will continue to have a positive impact on the cultural life of the region.

UMG-ADVOCACY-spreads.pdfBut as University Museums, we are much more than our public face.  The University Museums Group, which represents the 300 or so university museums and collections across the country,  has identified six ways, in addition to our public-facing role, in which university museums make important contributions to society:

University Museums are centres of research: our curators are leading experts in their field, and our collections are important research resources for academics across the world.

University Museum collections are vital resources in teaching undergraduate and graduate courses: objects inspire, stimulate and enhance learning across an increasing range of disciplines.

In addition, museums are environments where students can develop a wide range of transferable, real-world employability skills.

For many children and young people, a visit to a University museum will be the first contact they have with a Higher Education Institution, and hence play an important role in encouraging young people into further study, and overcoming barriers to further education.

Increasingly, University Museums are a leading resource for the wider museums sector, enabling them to access not only subject specialists within our museums, but through them, reaching researchers across the wider university.  The university culture of experimentation and analysis enables us to experiment with new approaches and carry out robust impact studies.  We also make an important contribution to training the future workforce.

Finally, universities, and university museums, work on an international scale – we are embedded in networks across the world, and as such hold huge potential for international partnerships and collaborations.

Here in Cambridge, this provides a good summary of the wide range of activities of the eight University of Cambridge Museums and the Botanic Garden, and we are grateful for the support that the Higher Education Funding Council for England provides through its Museums, Galleries and Collections Fund to enable us to do it.  University Museums are interesting and exciting places, and rich and important resources for everyone, and we hope our work can continue for many years.

More information about the work of the University Museums Group can be found here, and a short film about University Museums can be found here.

Liz Hide, University of Cambridge Museums Officer

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