Blog: Partnership & Collaboration

Policy Blog - Heritage Debate 2022

Blog from Benjamin Crowther, National Trust Partnership Support Officer at the University of Oxford, on the future of heritage.

Shared in the lead-up to The Heritage Alliance’s Heritage Debate 2022: Heritage in 20 years.

Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most?

The future of heritage is partnership and collaboration. At the beginning of this year, I joined the heritage team in Oxford as support officer for a programme of activities and research coordinated by the National Trust Partnership. The partnership facilitates conversations between academics, researchers and heritage professionals and supports subsequent research into the inspiring places, landscapes and collections owned by the National Trust. At this early stage in my career, it has been wonderful to learn more about how research support can build partnerships and connections across institutions.

The last few years have seen an acceleration in introducing new ways of working. Having recently started out in the sector, I have been aware of how sensitively and cautiously people discuss the early days of the pandemic. It has yet to sink in fully how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. What is clear is that there is much opportunity and necessity to build more flexible and sustainable partnerships across institutions.

In the summer, we worked with the Centre for the History of Childhood in Oxford to bring together a range of academics, heritage and museum professionals for a colloquium on children and heritage.  It was fantastic to be able to organise a conference for professionals and researchers from a wide range of institutions in a way that was less familiar before the onset of the hybrid event. Attendees and speakers from across the world were able to join those seated in the auditorium at Magdalen College, Oxford. The colloquium covered a range of topics including young people’s engagement with heritage in the past and today, the inclusion of children’s voices and lives within historic spaces and exhibitions, and historic collections related to children’s lives and experiences. It was the appetite to draw comparisons and discuss potential for collaboration that seemed to most excite everyone in attendance.

Partnership breaks down misconceptions of and barriers to the heritage sector. In 2019, as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to carry out research under the supervision of National Trust curators. During my project researching census records for Ickworth House in Suffolk I developed skills in analysing and presenting data and learnt about research and partnership work. The heritage team in Oxford continues to build such collaborations with heritage organisations and museums across the country and beyond. This summer, a group of Crankstart scholars supported Wentworth Woodhouse with digitisation of their archival collection. Interns developed skills in processes of digitisation and transcription. The programme of workshops and internships for students facilitated by heritage partnerships has introduced many to the sector.

It is these partnerships forged between museums, historic spaces and research institutions that can steward heritage for the future.

– Benjamin Crowther, National Trust Partnership Support Officer, University of Oxford [Alliance member]. Ben is also a former intern of The Heritage Alliance.

Image credits: Alice Purkiss, Rachel Delman, Ben Crowther

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Explore other perspectives on ‘Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most’ over on our event page for Heritage Debate 2022.