By: Cassandra Kist
The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum is one of the many cultural heritage institutions that form an essential part of the POEM network. It is the oldest museum in Scotland and holds an amazing encyclopedic collection which, due to its depth and breadth, has the potential to tell many meaningful stories. At the museum’s heart is the university community, and this entanglement with academic work enables transdisciplinary collaborations – a strong asset to the POEM network. The Hunterian also has partnerships outside academia, including one with Glasgow Life (the City of Glasgow’s charity that delivers cultural, sporting and learning activities) and the Moving Image Archive of the National Library of Scotland which manifests in the historic public venue of Kelvin Hall, facilitating unique collaborations and opportunities for public engagement.
The Hunterian aims to engage with academic communities and the public by supporting research, providing access to their collections at the Kelvin Hall Collection Study Centre and participating in outreach activities such as Night at the Museum. The Hunterian further reaches out to the global learning community within and beyond the academy through knowledge and collections exchange using social media and digital storytelling, among other digital channels.
Outside the University of Glasgow, the Hunterian not only partners internationally with other researchers and institutions, including the Harvard Art Museum and Yale Centre for British Art, but they also collaborate with other museum professionals worldwide – recently hosting the 2018 Annual Network meeting of Universeum, the European Academic Heritage Network. The Hunterian is currently in the process of moving over one million objects into its Kelvin Hall stores, a big undertaking over the next five years. The organisation sees this as a great opportunity, envisioning greater outreach and participation (beyond its traditional central focus of students and researchers), and the POEM project gives them an excellent opportunity to test the waters in terms of participatory, co-creative processes. One POEM researcher, Franziska Mucha, is working closely with the Hunterian to examine crowdsourcing as one such co-creative practice and its potential for innovating access to the collection and widening knowledge production around the objects.
According to Steph Scholten, the Director of the Hunterian Museum and co-supervisor of Franziska’s POEM PhD, they value the international collaboration of the POEM network as they are constantly looking for projects which can help the institution innovate their museum practices. Speaking of collaboration and participatory practices more generally, Steph pointed out that the process of collaborations can bring about unexpected things which can have as much value as the original intentions. Through the partnership with The Hunterian on the other hand, POEM researchers have the valuable opportunity to be informed by cultural heritage professionals and work in a real context, thus enabled to work towards outcomes that not only contribute to advancing research but can also have practical implications for museum professionals and their publics.
Featured Image: Night at the Hunterian Museum © Photo Unit, University of Glasgow