"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."When EM Forster wrote these words in Howards End, he was articulating both the power and the challenge of making meaningful connections in the world of Victorian social mores. 'Only Connect!' became not just the cry of a literary movement, but a call-to-arms for a generation to overcome fragmentation and to take responsibility for each other on the eve of War.
Right, bear with me on this. This is one of those posts about museum systems which I know may only appeal to a tiny cross-section of humanity. You might want to go and make a cup of tea or watch 'Strictly' or something.
A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about a methodology called 'COPE' (Create Once, Publish Everywhere), which prompted a discussion on the museum computer group e-list about content, data and publishing in museums.
You'd think we'd know this. After all we're the Collections Trust. But a collection can be a remarkably tricky thing to pin down. They can be a group of items, or a single item, or (as we learnt some time ago during the Cornucopia project) a house. It can be a collection because somebody collected it, or because all of the things in it are linked thematically. One thing can be part of lots of collections, and it is even theoretically possible to have a collection with no things in it at all (because they have been deaccessioned, but their ghost remains in the form of a collections-level description).
Last September, we published a joint article by Nick Poole and Nick Stanhope of Historypin called 'The Participatory Museum'. Building on Nina Simon's work in her book of the same name, the article set out to describe an important trend towards more open, participatory practice in museums.
The response to the article was overwhelming - it has been read nearly 14,000 times on Collections Link and has been re-blogged, commented and shared by museum and arts communities around the world. To celebrate, we held a joint event with Historypin at Europe House, which was an opportunity to bring together people from different professional communities.
As 2012 draws inexorably to a close, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the past year in the UK museum sector and for our colleagues in libraries and archives, and to look ahead to some of the key themes we'll be working on in 2013. This is just our list - we would love to hear from you about the highs and lows of 2012, and what next year holds in store for you and your organisation.
Nick Poole, CEO, Collections Trust
With our population of 63m, the UK is the 3rd largest nation in Europe. We have been a Member State of the European Union since 1973, and even though we aren't a member of the European Monetary Union (the Euro), our relationship with Europe is still hugely important to our balance of trade and our economy. And yet Europe remains distant, alien and sometimes confusing to many of us in the UK.
Our status as a Member State of the EU is important to UK museums for a number of reasons. On one level, Europe represents a very significant financial opportunity, providing funds for collaborative projects, training and research & development. Equally important, though, is the role of the European Parliament as a place where values and principles - particularly the role and contribution of culture to civic and economic life -
Nick Poole, CEO, Collections Trust
In case I haven't already made it abundantly clear - I love museums, libraries and archives. I think that investing in professional communities who bring together and protect our shared heritage and make it available for use and enjoyment is one of the most important marks of an enlightened society. The future, after all, is made of everything that came before it, and our job as a profession is to defend the universal and inalienable principle that people must be free to benefit from their heritage.
One of the most fundamental aspects of human life is the ability to hand on knowledge to our children. One of the most pressing tasks for each generation is to examine, to question and to improve on the wisdom they receive. Disrupting the cycle of learning is the first step towards despotism. Maximising the free and untrammeled sharing of knowledge is one of the most basic tasks of civilisation, alongside protecting dignity, health, food and security.
We must never forget, nor must we allow anyone else to forget, that the exercise of this right to inherit knowlege is the defining principle at the heart of our cultural institutions.
Here's an obviously unrealistic but plausible scenario for how the next 5 years will play out for UK museums. The Department for Culture Media and Sport, protected briefly by the Olympics, will find itself reducing its staffing and budgets by 20-30% in 2013-14. Responding to an increasingly diffuse Ministerial portfolio, it will find itself increasingly defending a vague culture, diversity and equalities agenda. This agenda will be swept aside by the rising tide of policy around jobs and growth.
The Museums Association has published Museums 2020, a sector-wide 'initiative to create a bold vision for UK museums and their impact – the difference museums can have on individuals, communities, society and the environment.'
The Collections Trust welcomes this initiative to promote strategic thinking about the future direction of museums, and has submitted a response reflecting our mission, which is:
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