Uniting Collections in UK

The following article first appeared in the NMDC (UK) Newsletter April 2014

‘Collections united, shall never be defeated’

Collections Trust CEO Nick Poole has made the case for a ‘distributed national collection’ – the idea that all the collections in the UK should be curated as a single entity with hundreds of outlets. He says:

• “To UK museums accustomed to acting more or less autonomously, the Distributed National Collection can sometimes look like a land-grab. But the idea is not to weaken individual museums. It is to strengthen all of us by promoting unity and strengthening our advocacy on a National stage.”

• “Currently, Local Authority museums stand exposed and more or less alone when confronted with difficult spending decisions by local councillors. If, instead of thinking of every museum as an island, we saw every museum as part of the national cultural infrastructure, then a threat to one museum might come to be seen as a threat to us all, and would therefore be much easier to defend.”

• If a Distributed National Collection belongs to everyone, and everyone has a right to see it, it would increase the obligation for partnership and loans between large and small institutions, with a shared obligation to help people to benefit.

• He adds that there is significant duplication across collections: “We have far, far too much stuff.” A distributed national collection would be able to divest itself of its oversupply of flatirons and rationalise what the museum sector should collectively keep.

Poole acknowledges that the idea is a radical one in the context of the way the sector currently works, but says that it resurfaces once each generation and that the National Strategies for Museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may be a step towards this vision. Collections Link