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Trusted Source: Knowledge Exchange with the National Trust

An innovative Arts and Humanities Research Council funded collaboration between the University of Oxford and the National Trust is enhancing visitor engagement with the charity’s historic properties, landscapes and collections.

Trusted Source is an online knowledge bank of concise, engaging and accessible articles about history, culture and the natural environment, crowdsourced from ‘trusted sources’ in the academic community and the National Trust itself. The resulting articles explore a range of subjects from different academic perspectives, therefore offering visitors a spectrum of insights into the National Trust’s diverse portfolio.

Articles include definitions of key ideas and specialist terms, in addition to profiles on the people and historical movements related to the charity’s places and collections. From ‘Why were some medieval villages deserted?’ and ‘What is the picturesque?’, to ‘Where is Thomas Hardy’s Wessex?’ and ‘Who was Alice de Rothschild?’, featured articles and author profiles can be seen on the National Trust’s website here.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Trusted Source is funded as a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP); an Innovate UK programme intended to help spread knowledge from the academic world more widely to public bodies and the business sector. KTPs are most frequently employed within the science and technology industries, however Trusted Source is demonstrating how the programme can equally support both a wider range of academic disciplines and heritage organisations like the National Trust. Dame Helen Ghosh, the charity’s Director-General, explains how the project supports the National Trust’s strategic aims:

‘We want to tell the stories of the collections and properties in our care in an engaging, accurate and inspiring way. Using the latest academic research, Trusted Source is helping us enhance the experience we give our members and visitors, uncover new information and deepen our understanding of the heritage in our care.’

Mutual Benefit

It is important to state the benefits that Trusted Source is offering both partners; rather than a one-sided transfer of knowledge from academia into the National Trust, the project also supports researchers and academics at all career levels with valuable opportunities for public engagement with research, by raising research profiles, offering networking opportunities with industry colleagues and opening up interdisciplinary research networks, in addition to offering access to incredible places, archives and collections. Oxford History PhD student and Trusted Source contributor, Hanna Smyth, reflects upon the project’s offer to researchers and her own motivations for contributing:

‘Trusted Source is an innovative project that I am excited to be involved with. One of its biggest strengths is its reciprocity: I was happy to contribute my knowledge for National Trust staff and visitors, and writing my contribution helped me think about how to communicate succinctly and with clarity. In contrast to the glacial pace of academic writing and publishing, writing for Trusted Source is also a more immediate way to have your research make a difference, and to reach a wider audience.’

Hanna Smyth’s Trusted Source author profile on the National Trust’s website.

With Trusted Source built into Humanities graduate training at Oxford plus an exciting schedule of related events across the university – including writing groups with historians, geographers and business school students, editorial workshops facilitated by the Careers Service, and a collaborative knowledge-exchange lecture series – a culture of collaboration is being fostered to support both organisations’ strategies while offering opportunities for individual researchers.

Growing Success

A year into the project, Trusted Source is growing from strength to strength: the knowledge bank continues to expand, and is matched by the increasing number of contributors from the National Trust, Oxford and beyond (including the Universities of Sheffield, Bristol, King’s College London, Newcastle and Cambridge to date). The project was recently awarded the Research & Understanding award at the National Trust’s annual Visitor Experience Awards, and articles are supporting a growing number of properties, projects and programming themes at local, regional and national level. Over the next year the project team hopes to establish a blueprint for collaboration that can be adopted by other academic institutions and heritage organisations, thereby encouraging further stories about places to be told and enriched through research.

Get Involved

The Trusted Source team is looking to work with new contributors from across the academic community, from Masters level and above. If you are interested in becoming a Trusted Source contributor or want to find out more, please visit www.torch.ox.ac.uk/trusted-source or email Alice Purkiss, alice.purkiss@history.ox.ac.uk

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