UK-EU Changing Relationship and its Impact on UK National Museums: A study of the time period 1991-2021

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Culture Media and Creative Industries


Through a combination of case study and archival research, interviews and focus groups, this interdisciplinary PhD project seeks to investigate how three key events of change in the UK EU relationship, inclusive of the UK's signing of the Maastricht Treaty (1991), Lisbon Treaty (2009) and Brexit (2020), have influenced four pivotal fields of UK national museums' practice: touring exhibitions, research collaborations, funding and workforce.

A substantial amount of uncertainty surrounds the future of the UK EU relationship (Hems, 2016, p. 1). Since the vote to leave was passed, the UK's international relationship has started changing (Whitman, 2016). Even before the UK has officially left the EU, preliminary research has identified multiple areas of uncertainty and potential change in the UK's national museums sector due to Brexit (Museums Association, 2016). This includes a reduction of free movement (Steel, 2017) and changes to workforce permits (Mendoza, 2017), collaborative practices, collections trade negotiations (Greater London Authority, 2018, p. 27) and funding (British Council Worldwide, 2018). These series of changes can be grouped under the four key categories of touring exhibitions, research collaborations, workforce and funding. The significance of the expected changes in these key areas is evinced by the fact that these were notably impacted by previous alterations to the UK EU relationship (Abraham, Griffin & Crawford, 1999). The current pivotal moment of transition in the UK EU relationship offers an exceptional opportunity to review and assess how this relationship has historically impacted upon UK national museums and shaped their practice, with the purpose of understanding how the UK museum sector may formulate future connections with the EU.

By focusing on the three events previous stated, this PhD aims to answer the following research questions:

A) How have UK national museums been affected by the UK EU changing relationship over the period of 1991 2021?

More specifically, the PhD will seek to answer;

1) How have each of the three events influenced research collaborations between UK national museums and EU museums and academic institutions?
2) What impact have these events had on UK national museums and their professionals, in terms of recruitment and workforce?
3) How has the ability for UK national museums to arrange and execute touring exhibitions been affected by the three events?
4) How have changes to funding sources, related to the three key events of change in UK EU relationship, created opportunities for UK national museums and their employees?

Through answering these questions, this vital academic research will aid in establishing a new vision for the UK museums sector, informing future policymakers, museum professionals and Museum and Heritage Studies scholars.

This study both aligns with and aims to contribute to investigations into unpredictable and uncertain changes to both museum practice (Janes, 1995) and, more widely, organisational change in cultural organisations. It is both informed by Faermans' (1993) acknowledgement that organisational change is inevitable because of the turbulent environment within which museums exist and inspired by key current academic discussions of organisational change in museums. It builds on the foundations provided by scholars such as Peakcock (2008), Abraham, Griffin & Crawford (1999) and Mccall & Gray (2014). Previously, organisation change has been often explored in regard to the management of individual organisations. This is evidenced in Janes' investigation into the Glebow Museum, Canada (Janes, 1995) or in Bagdadli & Paolino's (2006) investigation of the Italian National Museum of Science and Technology (NMST). This PhD study is original in its close focus on three national UK museums and its effort to create a picture of the UK national museum sector through an interdisciplinary investigation into organisational change.


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