Research Libraries UK

DCDC16 – Collections, connections, collaborations: from potential to impact

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DCDC16 will look at the varied and innovative ways in which archives, museums, libraries, and academia can help realise the potential of collections and translate this into social, cultural, and economic impact.

In the last decade, notions of impact have risen to the forefront of discourse and debate within the heritage, research, and academic sectors. As budgets across the heritage sector have retracted, organisations of every size and shape have had to review their working practices, and look at qualifying and quantifying the impact of their collections and activities, and their relation to wider social, cultural and economic agendas. Nationwide initiatives, such as the commemoration of the First World War, Magna Carta or Shakespeare’s death, have provided high-profile opportunities to showcase the wider impact that collections can have on the public consciousness, and our collective understanding of our past, our present, and our future. In addition to these high-profile examples, heritage organisations have continued to reach new audiences, in new ways, to widen the social and cultural impact of their collections as a part of their daily work, eroding perceived barriers of geography and discipline.

Additionally, academics, research bodies, and universities are actively considering the social, cultural and economic impact of their research, and are exploring innovative ways through which this can be demonstrated, as a part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Heritage and cultural organisations have shown themselves as valuable partners in the achievement, dissemination, and demonstration of impact for academic research, not as passive ‘routes to market’, but as valuable co-creators. These initiatives are combined with emerging discussions surrounding the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) within the Higher Education Sector, the continuing need to qualify and quantify the contribution that heritage collections can make “outside of heritage”, and technological advances, which enable the presentation of collections both in new ways and to new audiences.

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