UK Partner Museum seminar 26.11.2009

At the end of November, representatives from the UK Partner Museums came to the British Museum for a day-long seminar, giving presentations about the type of international work they are all involved in. The presentations were really interesting and it sparked many conversations about potential cooperations. It was great to reconnect with our colleagues again – below are short summaries of what was said:

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery give “reflecting World cultures” as one of their three strategic aims. They are involved with international visits, including curatorial training and have recently acquired works by Indian and Chinese artist. They are also committed to building their collection of Islamic objects with a view to having a dedicated gallery in the long term. The BMAG has also acquired a large collection of Chinese ceramics recently, reflecting the relatively large Chinese community and international collaborations which the BMAG has established.

Future exhibitions include the “Style Africa” exhibition planned for 2012. The exhibition will involve West African collections and aims to have involvement from young people. There are also other exhibitions such as the “Michael Bolton” and “The Art of David Cox” which have seen the BMAG involved in international networking with museum in the States and Australia. Loans include the high profile Royal Academy and a lot of interest world-wide in the Pre-Raphaelite collections, including exchanges with museums in Japan and Italy.


Manchester is a large, culturally diverse city, and the Manchester Museum has a drive to represent this in their collection, and to engage with local populations. The mission statement of Manchester Museums highlights the promotion of understanding between cultures and developing a sustainable world.

 They are cooperating with Wuhan Museum in China, with the National Museum of Natural History in Quito, Ecuador and with academics in Finland, Sweden, Russia and Kazakhstan (and these are just a few in a long list!).

 Manchester Museum also has a strong web presence, not only making their collections available online but also publishing interpretations (5-10min discussions) of objects on YouTube via their Virtual Collective Conversations project. This had allowed, for example, children from schools in the UK speaking in a studio to talk to children in a studio in Australia.


Tyne&Wear Archive&Museums consists of twelve venues and a county-wide archive. Their main aim is to improve audience experience. The international projects the TWAM is involved in include the ITP with the BM, and a DCMS funded project with South Africa – one candidate is chosen from a shortlist of ten; the participant is then invited to spend a number of months with the TWAM. There are cultural leadership programme placements, and they are also involved with the Cultural Olympiad in many ways. TWAM have a Memorandum of Understanding with Nelson Mandela Bay.

 The Sunderland Council has very strong links to China, as well as to Malmo in Sweden, initiated by Newcastle City Council. There was also a project of Sunderland to Saigon, where an Education Officer from TWAM travelled (accompanied by a film crew) the distance by train, blogging throughout and also acquiring new, contemporary objects to the museum’s collection.


The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester consider their international strategy a top priority. Small in size, the WAG prefer smaller exhibitions with a strong academic approach as a way of allowing current research to be brought to public attention. Their recent exhibitions include:

  • Indigo – an exhibition on the history of the Indigo dye industry. This included a Japanese installation at the WAG.
  • Art & Labour’s Cause is One – including much international research
  • Cloth & Culture Now – this exhibition saw cooperation with the University of East Anglia’s Sainsbury Centre, as well as partners in US, the Baltic Countries and Japan
  • Autonomous Agents – involving artists from the States with academic links to the University of Seattle
  • Subversive Spaces – a five year project including international loans
  • Marina Abramovic Presents… – a joint production with Manchester International Festival (and included clearing out the permanent collections for 17 days!)
  • Blake’s Shadow – the exhibition travelled to Seoul in South Korea

 There are many links to USA, the Czech Republic and Poland, and they are hoping to establish relationships in connection to future exhibitions.


National Museum of Wales Amgueddfa Cymru are involved with many different international projects. These include the Artis Mundi – held every two years, the most recent Artis Mundi received nominations from 80 different countries.

  St Fagan’s (one of the eight sites that the National Museum of Wales is comprised of) hosted the Indian festival of the goddess Durga. The most prominent of the international links is however the one with China: National Museum of Wales receives a Chinese delegation from Chongqing on a near monthly or occasionally bi-monthly basis – this has led to some of the staff at National Museum of Wales learning Chinese. There are also projects of exchange with China involving collecting contemporary objects by school children.

It’s been very interesting to identify similar projects, and there is great optimism for finding ways to work together, and for both past and future participants to benefit from various programmes ran amongst the museums involved with the International Training Programme.