We were recently successful in securing funding from the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) for a Collaborative Doctoral Award between the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies and the Royal Armouries.
How do ethics influence the development policies for accessing public collections which are essentially restricted by law: A case study of the Royal Armouries
The Royal Armouries has recently updated its Research Strategy. An important new aspect is the requirement for the Museum to understand its public role specifically because of the nature of the collections, which include many objects of arms and armour and also objects that are restricted in terms of access due to provenance or legislation.
This led us to develop with the University of Leeds’ Centre for Critical Studies and Museums, Galleries and Heritage a PhD project that will critically analyse policy and practice in terms of public access and museum ethics.
The project is embedded in an 11 year partnership between our organisations. Although there is emerging research and publications on generic registrar policy and practice, there is no specific research or writing currently on collections management of arms and armour, let alone the ethics of public access to such collections.
The knowledge of this area is held by those practising as registrars and collections managers in museums of arms and armour, including the proposed supervisors of this project. Therefore, this research is both important and original. This project asks key questions for the policy and practice of registrars more broadly and those specifically working with arms and armour collections.
Research methodologies will be developed throughout the project and may include qualitative methods such as interviews, analysis of legislation and policy context, and comparison with other collections of a similar nature both nationally and internationally. The Royal Armouries’ collections include their sites at the Tower of London and Fort Nelson, Portsmouth, and these will be included in the research analysis. Our aspiration is that this research would inform Royal Armouries’ policy in the future and arms and armour collections best practice and policy more broadly.
Stuart Bowes, an MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies graduate, recently started as a postgraduate researcher for the project.
Stuart’s supervisors include:
- Professor Abigail Harrison Moore (University of Leeds)
- Dr Kerry Bristol (University of Leeds)
- Laura Bell (Director of Collections, Royal Armouries)
- Jen Kaines (Head of Collections, Royal Armouries)
‘Hall of Steel’ in the Royal Armouries Museum. Image copyright: Royal Armouries.