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First awards and leadership announced towards a truly National Collection

Date: 20/02/2020

Eight foundation collaborative projects have started for the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) ‘Towards a National Collection: Opening UK Heritage to the World’.

This marks the first funding stage of the research programme that will address the lack of coordination between different online collections and catalogues as a major barrier to public access and research.  The foundation projects will take the first steps towards creating a unified virtual ‘national collection’ that has the potential to transform the way our cultural heritage institutions can work together.

The aim of the programme, delivered by AHRC for UK Research and Innovation, is to begin to dissolve barriers between different collections, opening them up to new cross-disciplinary and cross-collection lines of research, and to extend researcher and public access beyond the physical boundaries of their location.  These projects will lay the foundations for a virtual national collection by working in collaboration to identify and address the current or future challenges facing the formation of such a collection.

Rebecca Bailey has been appointed as the programme director to lead the ‘Towards a National Collection’ research programme. She joins from Historic Environment Scotland, where she was Head of Exhibitions and Outreach and will lead the SPF programme over the next 5 years, drawing together the projects funded and developing future recommendations.

She said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead this significant and timely new programme, which has clear potential to dissolve barriers between collections, opening them up to new cross-disciplinary lines of research, and extending public access. This unprecedented funding will allow us to build a strong collaborative research community, bringing together practitioners from across the cultural heritage sector, with academics at the forefront of digital humanities.

“We aim to be active and of benefit right across the UK and to ensure that everything we deliver respects the diversity of both the cultural heritage sector and the public it serves. Towards a National Collection will generate the ideas, exemplars and experiences that instigate and inspire a larger process of transformation in the way everyone can access, research, learn from and enjoy the outstanding collections of the UK’s museums, galleries, archives, libraries and heritage bodies.”

AHRC will soon be launching a call for large-scale interdisciplinary ‘Discovery’ research projects.  It is expected the full call specification will be published in April 2020, with a closing date in the Autumn.  Further information can be found here https://ahrc.ukri.org/funding/apply-for-funding/current-opportunities/towards-a-national-collection-opening-uk-heritage-to-the-world-pre-call-announcement/


Rebecca M Bailey was Head of Exhibitions and Outreach at Historic Environment Scotland from 2004-20. A graduate in Architectural History from the University of Edinburgh, her career has been dominated by promoting public engagement with collections through outreach, publishing, exhibitions and online initiatives. She specialises in devising large scale research and engagement projects and in securing grant funding to deliver them. She was curator of the ‘Romantic Scotland’ exhibition, at Nanjing Museum in China in 2017, and Principal Investigator of the related international research project ‘Producing/Consuming Romantic Scotland’. As award holder for the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium Collaborative Doctoral Partnership, she has helped facilitate doctoral research across Scotland’s national collections. She is a past member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Advisory Board and is currently President of the International Confederation of Architectural Museums and a member of the International Council of Museums Advisory Council.

The projects

  • Heritage Connector
  • Provisional Semantics: Addressing the challenges of representing multiple perspectives within an evolving digitised national collection
  • Practical applications of IIIF as a building block towards a digital National Collection
  • Persistent Identifiers as IRO Infrastructure
  • Deep Discoveries
  • Engaging crowds: citizen research and heritage data at scale
  • Locating a National Collection (LANC)
  • Preserving and sharing born-digital and hybrid objects from and across the National Collection
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