Tensions can become strengths for national museums seeking to work locally and collaboratively

A collaborative research project looking at how the National Science and Media Museum can be locally rooted and open, engaged and collaborative has concluded with the launch of an exciting new publication.

Led by Dr Helen Graham from the University of Leeds, the Bradford’s National Museum project worked collaboratively with the National Science and Media Museum and other partners in Bradford. Over 150 people were involved in different ways in shaping the research and the ideas that have emerged.

By taking an action research approach, the project explored key issues through a variety of initiatives. These included a temporary exhibition Above the Noise: 15 Stories From Bradford (April-June 2019), a contemporary collecting projectan intervention in one of the museum’s permanent galleries and a strand of research and reflection led by museum staff.

Above the Noise: 15 Stories From Bradford exhibition poster. Image Credit: Science Museum Group

A project publication was formally launched on 20 January at an online event.

Dr Helen Graham, Associate Professor in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies and facilitator of the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage, said:

“The Bradford’s National Museum publication does not simply give a retrospective account of the research findings. It was developed as an intrinsic part of the action research. The process of creating the publication was used to enable a final phase of reflection and dialogue and to draw out future directions for the National Science and Media Museum in and with Bradford.

“Approaching the issues from many different people’s perspectives sharpened understandings of the significant tensions produced by a national museum seeking to be rooted and collaborative.

“It also identified ways in which the tensions could be activated as strengths, dynamically creating pathways between the national and the local and expanding what the museum is and might become.”

Bradford's National Museum Project gathering at the Delius Centre to discuss the planning and content of the Above the Noise exhibition at the NSMM. Photo by Tim Smith.

Jo Quinton-Tulloch, Director, National Science and Media Museum reflected on Bradford’s National Museum project in her concluding thoughts:

“The research question – asking what it means to be a national museum, with a very specific home – has been a way of exploring the many challenges, opportunities and conflicts that arise.

“These tensions arise as we seek to be a museum that understands and serves its local communities and ensures that our collections and expertise are shared on a regional, national and global stage.

“It is through better understanding these tensions collaboratively with our Bradford partners that we have sought to turn them into strengths.”

You can read the publication here on the Bradford’s National Museum website.

Advertising for the Above the Noise exhibition at the National Science and Media Museum. Image Credit: Science Museum GroupMore information

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Bradford’s National Museum research project ran from October 2017 to September 2020.

The project was led by Dr Helen Graham (School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies), alongside Professor Will Gould (School of History), Professor Seán McLoughlin (School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science), Julia Ankenbrand and Dr Lynn Wray.

The full list of Bradford’s National Museum partners are:

National Science and Media Museum
University of Leeds
BCB (Bradford Community Broadcasting)
Alchemy
Tim Smith
Bradford Museums and Galleries
Kahani

To find out more about the project, email Helen Graham: h.graham@leeds.ac.uk

Images

Views of the National Science and Media Museum from City Park. Photo by Tim Smith.

Above the Noise: 15 Stories From Bradford exhibition poster. Credit: Science Museum Group.

Bradford’s National Museum Project gathering at the Delius Centre to discuss the planning and content of the Above the Noise exhibition at the NSMM. Photo by Tim Smith.

Advertising for the Above the Noise exhibition at the National Science and Media Museum. Credit: Science Museum Group.