Oxford University Museums Partnership believes that collaboration is the key to building and sharing knowledge, ensuring best practice, and to innovating new ways of engaging audiences and sharing collections.
Our museums engage with a variety of partners – from the museums, cultural and commercial sectors – on a regular basis, but we also have a number of formal partnerships.
Closely affiliated with the Oxford University Museums Partnership are three Delivery Partners: Oxfordshire County Council Museums Service, Museum of Oxford and Banbury Museum Trust. We collaborate with these museums to deliver funded projects to engage difficult to reach elements of our local community, and Delivery Partner representatives sit on the Partnership Board.
We work with Oxfordshire County Council Museums Service on a series of collections development projects to conserve, research and display key collection of significance to the County, and to engage local communities with collections from their area through outreach.
Activity over the last three years has included work with the Didcot Mirror, the Alchester Tombstone from the area near Bicester, and the Brize Norton Carts projects - all areas with significant populations of hard to reach audiences.
We are currently collaborating on the 'Our County, Our Collection' project that will culminate in an exhibition to commemorate 50 years of the County Museums Service and showcase 25 artefacts chosen by museum staff alongside 25 artefacts chosen by local source communities to tell the history of the County.
Oxford University Museums have been working with the Museum of Oxford since 2009 to develop the museum's community engagement offer and engage audiences from the more difficult to reach sections of the Oxford community. The Partnership seconds a Reminiscence Officer and a Community Volunteer Officer to the museum to deliver community engagement projects.
The Reminiscence Officer runs monthly reminiscence sessions in the museum as well as providing an outreach service to care homes, hospitals and support groups in the city. In cooperation with the Oxfordshire County Council Museums Service and Banbury Museum Trust’s reminiscence programmes, a comprehensive reminiscence service is offered throughout Oxfordshire.
The Community Engagement Officer works with a range of community groups and organisations – such as youth offenders, the homeless, young carers and adults with mental health difficulties – on museum projects focussed on film, photography, animation, sculpture, creative writing and opportunities to volunteer and create community exhibitions.
These activities aim to deliver real benefits to the community and individuals by building a shared sense of community identity, improving personal wellbeing, promoting greater engagement with others in the immediate and broader vicinity, and thereby increase satisfaction of community members with their neighbourhoods. The project also aims to increase basic skills, especially around communication, and build self-confidence in participants who may otherwise feel marginalised from mainstream society. The project also hopes to demonstrate the potential of museums as a medium for delivering against local authority targets and meeting social need.
To learn more about this Delivery Partner project at the Museum of Oxford visit their community project pages.
The Partnership is currently working with Banbury Museum Trust on projects that aim to create working links between the Museum and the local community, primarily through reminiscence work. This involves the development, through the monthly 'Kidlington Reminiscences' and 'Times Gone By' museum reminiscence sessions, of the museum oral history archive with a view to firmly embedding local stories into the Museum's schools programme.
The Museum is also building a team of reminiscence champions - recruited both through existing reminiscence groups and new partnerships - creating a reminiscence volunteer workforce who can act as ambassadors and champions and support the Museum's ambitions to link these stories into the Museum's wider education programmes including its new family learning programme that is being launched to make the museum more accessible and relevant to families. The programme will include a series of smaller projects exploring how to meaningfully reach out to local audiences not currently engaging with the service.
Banbury will also deliver the 'Keeping Connected' project: working with key care home partners to develop family reminiscence session, the impact of which will be closely studied and disseminated widely. The project aims to support residents with dementia and their families and drives the Museum's reminiscence work into a specialised field.
Development Partnerships are formal non-funded relationships with strategically selected museums with the purpose of nurturing the partner museum’s growth in a specific area of expertise. Activity takes the form of targeted, time-limited pieces of work, designed to address an identified need.
The desired end result of the partnership is an increased shared knowledge base and a step up in the partner museum’s ability to move forward in this area of work without the support of the Oxford University Musuems Partnership. In this way Oxford University Museums Partnership hope’s that this programme will not simply deliver a series of rolling supported projects, but will support sector expertise and resilience.
To find our more read our Development Partner Case Study below.
If you would like to discuss a potential Development Partnership please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01865 613784.
Case Study: Powell Cotton Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum began working with the Powell-Cotton Museum to help it develop a Heritage Lottery Funded project ‘Looking Back to Find Them Looking Forward: The Visionary Powell-Cotton Sisters’.
The project focussed on ethnographic film and female collectors. In 1936 and 1937 two daughters of the founder of the Powell-Cotton Museum, Diana and Antonia Powell-Cotton, made ambitious collecting and filming trips to Southern Africa. The result was just under three hours of edited black-and-white 16mm film, accompanied by nearly 3,000 objects and 2,000 photographs. The films portray local ceremonies, craftworking, and family life in rural Africa through the eyes of the two women. Together they provide a unique record of the region at a crucial time in its history, before the full impact of the massive cultural changes brought about by missionization and colonial rule.
Girls stick skirt, fake eyebrows, beard and hair piece collected by the Powell-Cotton sisters and now in the Pitt Rivers Museum (1940.7.88, 91-93) © Pitt Rivers Museum
The sisters’ collecting practice was visionary in that it placed photography and film-making in a central role in the collection of material culture, something few other museum collections were doing at the time. As a result their collection represents a significant part of the film and museum heritage of the county. Until this new project, however, their achievements were not recognised in the galleries of the Powell-Cotton Museum.
The project culminated in a temporary exhibition of Angolan artefacts and archive film and photographs, co-curated with the Angolan Cultural Foundation and the Angolan Embassy, and in the development of a permanent exhibit to celebrate Angola and its culture.
Pitt Rivers colleagues supported this project in several ways. Jeremy Coote, Head of Collections at the Pitt Rivers, wrote letters in support of the museum’s funding application, and provided ongoing professional advice throughout the project. Early in the project, colleagues from Powell-Cotton attended training days at the Pitt Rivers Museum to expand their knowledge of what is involved in creating exhibitions and to learn from Pitt Rivers staff about working with source communities. Pitt Rivers colleagues also contributed practically to the temporary exhibition, providing conservation and mount-making services, and sharing their knowledge of these areas with the Powell-Cotton team.
This initial engagement has formed the basis for an ongoing relationship between the two museums and an extension of the development partner relationship. More recently Andy McLellan, Head of Education at the Pitt Rivers, assisted colleagues at the Powell-Cotton in developing an education delivery plan as part of an upcoming funding bid, and Chris Morton, Curator of Photograph and Manuscript Collections at the Pitt Rivers, is providing continued advice and support to the museum as they undergo a leadership change.
There is a long history of cooperation between the two museums. In 1933 Antoinette Powell-Cotton was a trainee of Henry Balfour at Pitt Rivers. On accepting her he wrote, "If she can put up with odd jobs (some perhaps, very odd) and is not entirely disheartened by my lectures on Technology, she will probably get on all right".' She catalogued footwear and worked on the card index in 1933 and 1934. She also came and showed some of the films at the 372nd meeting of the Oxford University Anthropological Society held on 6 June 1940.