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National Museums Scotland has been awarded a grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with the National Maritime Museum, London to enable organisations around the UK to work with community groups to explore experiences of empire, migration, and life in Britain through their collections.

The £250,000 pilot project, entitled Exchange: Community-Led Collections Research, will see funding distributed to galleries, libraries, archives and museums to work with South Asian, African and African-Caribbean diaspora organisations to answer research questions identified by these community groups.

The year-long project will see National Museums Scotland and the National Maritime Museum, London, working as a hub; gathering evidence for best practice guidelines, providing expert guidance and holding a central fund which will be distributed to partner organisations around the UK.

Outputs will include new research into the historic and contemporary meanings of objects, which will inspire new, creative projects defined by community groups and centered around partner organisations’ collections. These will challenge and expand on established representations of diaspora experiences.

Dr John Giblin, Keeper of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland said: 

“We want to support greater equality, diversity and inclusion within the galleries, libraries, archives and museums sector in the UK. To do this we need to consider who is visiting our institutions and what they find there when they do. We need to invest more work in how histories of empire, migration and life in Britain are told from the perspective of diaspora communities. This generous grant from the AHRC will allow organisations to work with UK communities who have historically been marginalised in museum and gallery displays to reveal and share a wider range of stories and perspectives.”

Project team

National Museums Scotland team

Dr John Giblin: Principal Investigator for the project and Keeper for the Department of World Cultures

Dr Yahya Barry: Community Collections Research Hub Manager at National Museums Scotland and a senior visiting researcher at the University of Copenhagen’s Centre of African Studies

Iona Diver: Hub Administrator and Departmental Administrator for the Department of World Cultures

Jilly Burns: Head of National & International Partnerships

Janie Hopkins: Head of Learning & Engagement

National Maritime Museum, London team

Dr Robert Blyth: Co-investigator for the project and Senior Curator of World History at National Maritime Museum

Sally Archer: Research and Heritage Partnerships Manager

Sarah Lockwood: Head of Learning and Interpretation

Dr Aaron Jaffer: Curator, World Cultures

Roz Croker: Senior Manager: Partnerships and Public Engagement

Charlotte Paddock: Adults and Communities Participation Manager

Project collaborators

Confirmed partner organisations in Scotland include: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, Glasgow Life and David Livingstone Birthplace.

Confirmed partner organisations in England include: Museum of the Home, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Brunel’s SS Great Britain and Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums.

Low and long white building with two conical turrets. A sculpture of the earth rests in a grassy lawn with people playing happily.
David Livingstone Birthplace. Image: Walnut Wasp

Old fashioned ship with masts set on a platform next to a calm river, surrounded by multi-storey buildings.
Brunel SS Great Britain. Image: Adam Gasson

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