There is an increasing recognition that there are many unarticulated and unanswered questions concerning the relationships of heritage, the museums sector, and communities and that these deserve greater attention from both professionals and academics alike. Recent projects such as the European Union Cultural Heritage and Global Change initiative, the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Cultural Value programme, and the cross-Research Councils’ Connected Communities programme recognise the desire to develop new approaches and collaborations to explore concerns about these relationships. The encouragement to develop interdisciplinary research that incorporates the concerns and experiences of practitioners has also been mandated by the Council of Europe’s 2005 Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society; this can be seen in the increased development of specialist groups concerned with culture, heritage and the arts in general, that are associated with academic disciplines ranging from sociology, politics, archaeology and economics to law.
With this in mind, the current project seeks to make a tangible contribution to the wider debate and to provide a forum in which to identify the core questions for the heritage and museums sectors, thereby establishing a basis for the formation of research topics that will draw practitioners and academics together. On the basis of a preliminary questionnaire focused discussions will take place at Warwick University to establish a coherent set of research themes and questions, approaches and partners which can then be developed into effective programmes of research activity. This will provide scope for establishing local, national and international research networks, enabling continued future collaboration between practitioners and academics.
It is expected that the project will lead (in the short to medium term) to the establishment of specific research groups that will collaborate on research bids for funding projects addressing specific questions identified during this course of this project. Furthermore, it is hoped that more general research networks will be created to facilitate other collaborations between practitioners and academics; new information exchange partnerships between practitioners and academics can be established to feed into museum and heritage practice; and the development of new inter-disciplinary approaches to the study and analysis of heritage and museums can be investigated.
In addition to the specific funding proposals it is anticipated that there will be an opportunity for a special edition of a relevant journal in the fields of heritage and museums studies on the basis of the discussions that will be held, as well as the establishment of future publishing opportunities through books and articles. Public lectures, from practitioners and academics, based on the core questions that arise from the project will also be mounted at Warwick University at a later date.