Research and evaluation - Museums Association

Research and evaluation

Museums should support people-centred research that responds to the challenges in society and leads to positive change.

A case study from Glasgow Women’s Library

Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) is the only Accredited Museum in the UK dedicated to celebrating women’s lives, histories and achievements, with a libraryarchive and innovative programmes of public events and learning opportunities.

In 1995, GWL became custodians of the London-based Lesbian Archive and Information Centre (LAIC) after its closure because of funding cuts. Spanning the 1920s to the present day, this collection now makes up a third of GWL’s archive and is the only lesbian archive in the UK.

It includes evidence of close-knit, inclusive and intersectional communities, crossing a range of materials, from community group meeting minutes, to international publications, campaign materials and much more.

Despite GWL’s longstanding care of the collection, there is still a wealth of materials waiting to be discovered and presented to empower new communities of women.

The Museums Association-Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund Lesbian Lives project was developed in collaboration with independent curator Freya Monk-McGowan to further unleash its potential by interpreting and digitising materials.

A commission will see award-winning artist and participant in LAIC’s history, Ingrid Pollard, create work to be showcased at Glasgow International in 2021. Pollard’s social art practice brings to light pertinent narratives around representation and difference.

Alongside Pollard’s residency, the archive trainee, Lauren Kelly, will be focusing on improving access and delivering events to give people first-hand experience with materials.

With support from GWL’s experienced team of staff and volunteers, this project centres social justice and transformation. The need for this work is captured by lead curator Monk-McGowan: “As a queer woman, I understand and have lived the experience of coming out without the representation of my life in either heritage institutions or wider society.

“I know the damage that this can do to a person’s understanding of their place within society, their self-esteem, and importantly, their health and wellbeing.”