A research team is to examine museum closures in the UK between 2000 and 2025 after receiving £1m funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
The Mapping Museums team, which has spearheaded an initiative to map the rapid expansion in the number of museums between 1960 and 2020, is to analyse closure and collections dispersal within the UK museum sector.
The project aims to examine the geographic distribution of closure, to better understand types of closure - for example, whether museums are mothballed or disbanded - and to document the flows of objects and knowledge from museums in the aftermath of closure.
Announcing the project, the research team said: “We will investigate the afterlife of collections, find out if museum exhibits are scrapped, sold, stored, or re-used, and examine ‘outreach’ and temporary museums.
“A knowledge base will be designed to model and store the collected data, and visualisations and analyses of the data will be developed. Above all, we aim at critically reassessing notions of permanence and loss within the museums sector.”
The project, titled Museum Closure in the UK 2000-2025, will be based at Birkbeck, University of London and King’s College London. It will run for two years, beginning in October 2023.
The research will be led by Fiona Candlin, professor of museology at Birkbeck, working with co-investigators, Andrea Ballatore of King’s College London, who is a specialist in cultural data science, Alexandra Poulovassilis, emeritus professor in computer science, and Peter Wood, professor in computer science. The post-doctoral researcher is Mark Liebenrood (museum history). The project will also recruit a second post-doctoral researcher in data science.