Audiences, Participation & Engagement, Digital Culture, Museum Curation

Curating expertise: Towards an Interdisciplinary Museums Studies Research Agenda at KCL

Dr Serena Iervolino and Dr Stuart Dunn

There has recently been much interest and attention within King’s College London to the field of museum studies. This is hardly surprising: the university sits within one of the richest and most diverse cultural cities in the world, surrounded by gems such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, the V&A, the Soane Museum and many, many more, large and small, famous and niche. Together with the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ cutting-edge interdisciplinary research agenda, and there is massive scope for interdisciplinary dialogue about what museums are, and should be, in 2020.  However, that interest, and the expertise which drives it, is dispersed across various departments at King’s, and exists way beyond Arts and Humanities. Some, such as that found in CMCI, concerns the social and political effects of museums and how they are shaped by and shape contemporary social, economic and political imperatives. Others, such as DDH, are interested in digital methods for exploring, explaining and present collections. Others still are interested in the managerial aspects of museums. And, others bring specialist technical skills currently applied in other areas, such as imaging, and 3D.

There is, in general, limited knowledge of how this interdisciplinary area might fit together more coherently at King’s. As Museum and Gallery Studies is a strongly interdisciplinary field, with an increasingly important digital component, academics working in this area are effectively dispersed across King’s various departments. As a result, they are often unaware of colleagues within King’s who share similar interests. This situation sharply diminishes the opportunity of internal—research and teaching—collaborations, and significantly weakens the external profile of King’s as a leader in this field.

The project Curating expertise: Towards an Interdisciplinary Museums Studies Research Agenda at KCL will enable us to establish close collaborations between our sister departments, CMCI and DDH, whilst facilitating the establishment of connections with relevant colleagues across King’s. This is an essential step, we believe, to facilitate future research and teaching collaborations between our departments and within King’s, whilst raising the profile of King’s expertise within this field outside the organisation. It will accomplish this by establishing the foundations of a “Museum Forum/Centre” at King’s through exploring, and capitalizing upon, CMCI and DDH’s overlapping interests in museums, digital heritage and galleries.

We will organise a series of internal activities aiming to

  1. bring together CCMI and DDH colleagues whose work addresses museums, heritage and galleries to explore their interest in contributing to future teaching and research collaborations;
  2. identify relevant colleagues across KCL whose work focuses significantly on museums, digital heritage and galleries through a process of primary desk research undertaken by a student;
  3. explore existing overlapping interests in this area of research and teaching during structured activities, via a speed-networking/sharing event; followed by a workshop aiming to define the scope of future collaborations.

We will thus facilitate a public debate around the future of museum/gallery university-based interdisciplinary research and teaching at KCL and draw up a concrete plan to facilitate internal collaborations and raise the profile of King’s.

If you are interested in our project and wish to contribute to shaping the future of an interdisciplinary Museum Studies research agenda at King’s, please get in touch with Stuart Dunn and Serena Iervolino. We would be delighted to hear from you, whether you are a member of the King’s community or a stakeholder from the museum and gallery sector.

Creative Economy & Cultures of Production

Reconceptualising the Public-Private Partnership in Cultural Policy: The Insights from the Historical Research of UK Film Policy

Takao Terui

To fully understand the culture, media and creative industries, the public policy for them is a fundamentally essential issue. That’s why I have been exploring cultural policy as my doctoral research theme.

I began to be particularly intrigued by the practices and history of UK cultural policy since I moved to Coventry and started my MA at the University of Warwick. What impressed me most is the collaborative relationship between the public and private sectors, which can be identified as an institutional tradition in the UK. In ideal policy cases, we can point out that, whereas the private business contributes to realising public interests, the government provides private actors with the infrastructure and freedom as a coordinator. My academic interest is to investigate the model of the public-private partnership in cultural policy and elucidate how the successful collaboration between the public institutions and private business can be realised.

To study the public-private collaboration in cultural policy, I have been researching the history of UK film policy as a central theme of my PhD. As it has been identified as both cultural symbol and economic commodity, the film has attracted the interests of both the governments and private companies from the very beginning of the twentieth century. As a result, film policy provides valuable cases of the public-private negotiations. But why do I have to research history instead of the contemporary topics related to our cultural landscape?

For me, the historical imagination is critically important in the present context because the criticism on the business and market is so dominant that makes difficult to consider alternative understanding about this issue. The group of critical researchers claim that the series of reforms characterised as deregulation, privatisation, and marketisation have undermined both the public sector and civil society since the 1980s. This tendency, they argue, is problematic, especially in the cultural policy, because it prevents us from appreciating the non-commercial value of culture and protecting its autonomy. In this context, critical research tends to focus on delineating the destructive impact on cultural policy and cultural sector caused by the introduction of the ethos of the private business.

While these researchers problematise the destructive consequences in the present, I have been examining the roles of the private enterprise in the film policy before these contemporary trends. The history of the British film policy teaches us that the private business contributed to realising educational and cultural policy to achieve public welfare in a unique way. How should we understand these non-commercial commitments by the trade? Did the private sector cause damage to public culture as it is denounced now? What was the relationship between the public and private sectors in these cases? My doctoral thesis aims to explore these questions and demonstrate the alternative model of the collaboration between the public authority and private business in UK film policy.

I am currently carrying out multi-archival research about the early history of the British Film Institute (BFI) as my PhD pilot study. Since its establishment in 1933, the BFI has played a significant role in supporting educational and cultural activities related to the film. As the BFI is commonly understood as an institute for the non-commercial aspects of the film, its relationship with the private business is relatively overshadowed. The existing research has described the BFI-trade relationship by using negative vocabularies such as “fear” “tension” “hostility” “pressure”. It implies that preceding scholarship tends to understand the relationship between the BFI and private sector as polarised or confrontational. However, the investigation of historical materials shows a more nuanced relationship between the Institute and film business. To unpack this issue, I have traced the process of negotiation between the interest groups of the film industry and non-commercial stakeholders including educationalists, film critics and policymakers.

The preliminary archival research demonstrates that, although film trade primarily concerned about their economic interests, their activities were not necessarily driven by fear or hostility toward the public sector. In contrast, they attempted to realise the public benefits by providing their resources and knowledge about the film industry. These supports from the film business was invaluable for the BFI to realise its cultural and educational goals including the construction of its film library and film archive. More importantly, the commitment of the film trade enabled the BFI to achieve its independence from the central government. In this sense, the case of the BFI exemplifies the collaborative relationship between the business and public sector. For my PhD project, I will continue exploring the critical moments of the British film policy and examine how the business and public sector attempted to realise the mutual benefits in establishing national film policy.

I am going to make more detailed presentations about this research project at the MECCSA (Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association) Conference (2020, January) and ICCPR (International Conference on Cultural Policy Research) Conference (2020, September).

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_tweetmeme share_text_page_title=”” share_via=”kingscmci”][/vc_column][/vc_row]