A great melange of academia and art

Nieuws | de redactie
20 september 2012 | Why should a museum not function as a research institute at the same time? The League of European Research Universities (LERU) shares some interesting cooperation-examples with the world.

Many universities and arts departments in particular, closelycollaborate with the local museum or museums. Some universitieseven own one or more museums, permitting them to make use of theirspecial assets for education and research.

A fine illustration can be found in the Finnish Museum ofNatural History, which operates as an independent researchinstitution under the aegis of the University of Helsinki. Thecollections include botanical, zoological, geological andpaleontological specimens from all over the world, serve researchin the fields of biology and geology as well as educationalpurposes.

Multiple benefits

A splendid idea, according to Martinus Buekers (KU Leuven) andBas Nugteren (Universiteit Utrecht), who wrote a LERU- briefing paper aiming at the multiple benefits that range fromscientific insights and educational quality over societal value toeconomic profit.

Buekers and Nugters describe a model according to whichuniversities can design a cultural strategy, using ‘production’,’participation’ and ‘connection’ as its three anchor points.

For such a strategy to be successful, several frameworkconditions need to be met. For example, the universityleadership should be committed to the cause, with a high levelcentral appointment responsible for strategy development anddedicated contact persons in faculties or similar units. 

Get out of the office

Students should be confronted with the creative thinking of theartistic world and stimulated to participate. In addition, thescientific potential of research departments should be linked withthe creative capacity of the cultural field (exhibitions, sciencemuseums, common projects). Involving international scholars as wellas the local community is crucial, too.

The paper discusses several initiatives at LERU universitiesdescribing how this can be done in practice, from universitymuseums that also operate as research institutes (e.g. at theUniversity of Helsinki), to a programme for talented students atthe KU Leuven which strengthens ties between the university and thecity’s cultural organisations, to the merger of the University ofEdinburgh with the Edinburgh College of Arts.

The authors thus make a convincing case that developing andimplementing a solid university cultural policy plan is not to beconsidered a redundant luxury and that focusing on the immenselyrich field of creativity and creative arts has a great potential of’collateral advantage’ for our ‘prominent places of education andresearch’.

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