CFP: Museums in Context and Partnership

Day 1: Heritage institutions in urban regeneration

Day 2: Museums, galleries and higher education

National Railway Museum (York), 19 - 20 April 2018

Deadline for abstracts: 2 March 2018

The University of Sheffield and the National Railway Museum invite paper proposals for a two-day conference on the subjects of museums and galleries in urban regeneration, and their relationship with higher education institutions.

In November 2017, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published the Mendoza Review. This surveyed the current state of England's museum and gallery sector, and identified the challenges facing it: whilst such institutions have seen their funding reduced in real terms by 13% over the past decade, they are increasingly expected to grow and diversify their audiences, enhance their international profile, and build towards "sustainable and resilient models" of operation (Mendoza, 2017: 9). To confront this uncertain future, the Mendoza Review made a number of practice and policy recommendations, central amongst which were the calls to contribute to "placemaking and local priorities" (Mendoza, 2017: 10) and to "assist scholarly research through partnerships with universities" (6).

Mendoza is far from alone in his assertions: A 2008 paper by Simon Tait for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that museums often serve as "a potent force in social and urban regeneration" (2), and in a review by Chiara Bonacchi and Judy Willcocks in 2016 for the Museum University Partnership Initiative (led by the NCCPE), the authors concluded that it has become "urgent to understand how partnerships between these two kinds of institutions can act to their mutual benefit" (8). The role of museums and galleries in local renewal have been studied at length (Crouch & Farr, 2000; Hetherington, 2007; Dean, Donnellan & Pratt, 2010; Dinardi, 2015; Polo, 2015), and collaboration between the heritage sector and universities is being increasingly promoted and theorised (Boys, Boddington & Speight, 2016; Reynolds, 2016). Nevertheless, at a time when many museums are at risk of cuts or closure, the questions that surround their place in our cities and their potential for collaborative work have never been more pressing.

This conference aims to examine the role of heritage institutions in urban regeneration, and how museums, galleries and higher education might work together for teaching and research purposes, and to develop displays, exhibitions and programmes. Bringing together experts from the heritage industry, from government and business partners, and from academic practitioners, the conference will serve as a space for discussion of both the benefits and challenges of such initiatives, as well as an ideas exchange on best practice. We therefore invite proposals on topics that include, but are not limited to:

  • Museums' and galleries' role in urban regeneration and gentrification;

  • Neoliberal cities and cultural consumption;

  • Museums and galleries for tourists and for citizens;

  • Local cultural communities, interest groups and their relation to heritage sites;

  • The local economic impact of museum and gallery development;

  • (Foreign) investors in urban sites with a heritage component;

  • Experiences of collaboration between HE, museums and galleries;

  • The effectiveness of existing museum-university collaborations;

  • Researchers'  and students' experiences of collaboration;

  • The differences between museum-led and university-led collaborative research;

  • Museums in partnership: local,  national and international;

  • Archival access, digitisation and digitally supported research;

  • Public engagement with  museum-based research;

  • The impact of the  'impact' agenda on the relationships between HE and cultural/heritage institutions;

  • Equal access to museums and universities: can we help each other?

We invite 20-minute presentations, which will be followed by an open-floor exchange of ideas. Presenters are therefore asked to formulate a few key questions which they would like to pose to their fellow delegates. Joint contributions with partners are encouraged.

300-word abstracts, plus a brief list of key questions and a short author's biography (50 words), should be submitted via the online form ( by 2 March 2018. Delegates are also requested to indicate whether they intend to attend one or both conference days. Please direct informal enquiries to Chris Leffler (

This conference is part of the 'Railway Cultures' project, a collaboration between the University of Sheffield's Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the National Railway Museum. It will be followed by a late-night opening of the museum, with a presentation of outputs from the project (including a book, commissioned artworks, and performances of music and creative writing) .

Lucie K. Morisset