I have worked with the University of Reading on several different projects over the years, but I think their latest collaboration is perhaps the most exciting to date – partnering with the British Museum’s Archaeological Research Collection (BM_ARC). Working alongside our landscape teams, my team and I have secured planning permission for a new storage facility on the outskirts of Reading to house some of the British Museum’s world-famous collections. Adjacent to the new Thames Valley Science Park, the strategically accessible location will enable the Museum to lend objects from the collection to not only local and national but also international venues.
The Museum’s current storage facility in London is due to close in 2023, so the BM_ARC building will become the main home for their ancient sculptures, mosaics, archaeological assemblages and historic cast collections. Alongside this, a global research facility with study facilities and a loans logistics centre will give university students and academics unique access to the objects housed, while also allowing schools, museums, heritage organisations and the public access to the collection by appointment.
What is interesting about this project, is the coalescence of circumstances that has led to this exciting relocation opportunity. The planned strategic vision for science, research and innovation at the Thames Valley Science Park (which lies adjacent to the BM_ARC), has enabled a unique partnership with the University of Reading to flourish. One which combines significant research, economic, education and cultural opportunities for the area, the region and beyond. The Museum clearly saw the value in an academic partner and the benefits they could bring to the research and interpretation of its collection. The University of Reading has an excellent international reputation for research in archaeology, offering a wide range of teaching and research programmes with direct relevance to areas within the BM_ARC.
The project will support the operational needs of the Museum, but it’s value to the local area is truly exceptional. The conservation and research into objects within the collection will help to attract others to invest and locate in the area, further enhancing the knowledge and innovation hub the Thames Valley Science Park is seeking to deliver.
But the most significant aspect of these two major institutions working together in my mind, is their ability to increase the potential for collaboration and education and offer a lasting legacy. It surprised me when in the early stages we identified how few local, Thames Valley schools visit the British Museum each year, despite our proximity to London. How exciting to give young people an opportunity to see objects from the great ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome on their doorstep and to be able to talk to the curators who can explain what the objects are and why they are so important. The Museum is keen to explore partnerships with schools in the Borough to support the national curriculum, helping teachers bring history to life and through visits this is surely the next best thing to a Night at the Museum?
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Planning, Education, Leisure, British Museum