Many universities and arts departments in particular, closely
collaborate with the local museum or museums. Some universities
even own one or more museums, permitting them to make use of their
special assets for education and research.
A fine illustration can be found in the Finnish Museum of
Natural History, which operates as an independent research
institution under the aegis of the University of Helsinki. The
collections include botanical, zoological, geological and
paleontological specimens from all over the world, serve research
in the fields of biology and geology as well as educational
A splendid idea, according to Martinus Buekers (KU Leuven) and
Bas Nugteren (Universiteit Utrecht), who wrote a LERU-
briefing paper aiming at the multiple benefits that range from
scientific insights and educational quality over societal value to
Buekers and Nugters describe a model according to which
universities can design a cultural strategy, using 'production',
'participation' and 'connection' as its three anchor points.
For such a strategy to be successful, several framework
conditions need to be met. For example, the university
leadership should be committed to the cause, with a high level
central appointment responsible for strategy development and
dedicated contact persons in faculties or similar units.
Get out of the office
Students should be confronted with the creative thinking of the
artistic world and stimulated to participate. In addition, the
scientific potential of research departments should be linked with
the creative capacity of the cultural field (exhibitions, science
museums, common projects). Involving international scholars as well
as the local community is crucial, too.
The paper discusses several initiatives at LERU universities
describing how this can be done in practice, from university
museums that also operate as research institutes (e.g. at the
University of Helsinki), to a programme for talented students at
the KU Leuven which strengthens ties between the university and the
city's cultural organisations, to the merger of the University of
Edinburgh with the Edinburgh College of Arts.
The authors thus make a convincing case that developing and
implementing a solid university cultural policy plan is not to be
considered a redundant luxury and that focusing on the immensely
rich field of creativity and creative arts has a great potential of
'collateral advantage' for our 'prominent places of education and