Research and collaboration

Research is a key part of what the University Museums do. We research the collections, collaborate with academic Schools on their research, and trial  innovative ways of achieving research impact, with a special focus on behavioural change.

Everything we do is created in collaboration with University staff and students.

If you have an idea for a collaboration with the University Museums and would like to work with us to develop it then we want you to get in touch. It might be turning your research into a major exhibition, an event, a small experiment or something else. The first stage in working with us is to complete a Note of Interest form (PDF)

The questions below explore further what working with us involves.

Ways to collaborate with museums

Wardlaw Museum: Albany Gallery

The Albany Gallery is where our major exhibitions take place. They are always in collaboration with a researcher at the University and tackle a range of different topics, from what makes us human, peatlands, Iranian culture and exoplanets.

Wardlaw Museum: Research Studio

The Research Studio is a new kind of space, marking a new way that University Collections and Museums are working. It is a space for curiosity and conversation, inspired by the spirit of enquiry that is at the heart of University research and teaching.

The Research Studio space is flexible, and we encourage experimentation and prototyping, as well as creativity and the development of new ideas. Some exhibitions will begin their development in this space, and at other times there will be conversations and public events taking place here. Whatever it is, it won’t be the same thing twice.

An openbook with a series of colourful horizontal lines on the pages.

Barbara Morton, Entropie Books
Research Studio, until 16 May

Barbara Morton is a St Andrews based author, artist, curator and book maker. In 2014 she established Entropie Books to publish small editions of her poetry, literature, artist books, and pamphlets. Her artistic and literary practice incorporates the arts of poetry, printmaking, bookbinding, typography, papermaking, and chine-collé to present her literary texts and abstract geometric drawings in an exact and deliberate visual form.

The environment, the home of the text, is critical. Likewise, typography ~ how the text resides upon the page ~ is crucial. Resisting uniformity of design each published title is hand-crafted and intuitively considered to achieve an equilibrium of artistic form and literary content.

Exhibit: digital storytelling

The museums of the University of St Andrews have developed an innovative new tool which enables anyone to access our digitised objects and to create interactive presentations.

Exhibit can be used for teaching, assessment, presenting research to a wider public and illustrating presentations.

Exhibit is easy to use and can be shared or embedded in PowerPoint, Moodle, Teams, WordPress and web pages. It can be shared with students or colleagues, who can annotate it or use it as a basis to create their own presentations. 

Museums' research

Universities are about innovation, and the University Museums at St Andrews are no different. We seek to reimagine what a museum can be and how it can have impact on the world and conduct research to help us to do this.

AHRC research project: online teaching with digitised museum collections

Covid-19 has led to a rush by museums and collections to digitise and create digital content, in parallel with a dramatic shift to online and hybrid teaching and learning by universities.

By capturing case studies and good practice relating to online teaching and learning with digitised collections, we hope to offer much-needed support to museums and universities. 

Sustainability and behavioural change

Museums are very good at raising awareness about the threats to our planet, but how can we take a step further and encourage visitors to make lifestyle choices that counteract those threats?

University Collections and Museums are conducting research into how exhibitions and programmes and help visitors to live more sustainable lives. Research is taking place through a number of exhibitions happening between 2021 and 2025:

  • Dive In! Protecting our Oceans, which took place in 2021
  • For Peatlands' Sake, which took place in spring 2023
  • What Makes us Human?, which took place in summer 2023
  • Alien Worlds, which will take place in summer and autumn 2024.

The results of these projects help us better understand the role museums can play. Findings will be share in due course.

Our Dive In Case Study (PDF) summarises what the visitor evaluation of the exhibition revealed, in turn shedding light on how exhibitions can engage visitors around pro-environmental behaviours.

Our Dive In Interpretation Guide (PDF) offers thoughts as our learning from the project, and as a means of positive encouragement to other museum teams making exhibitions that seek to provoke behaviour change in their visitors, especially concerning climate change and other environmental campaigns.

Re-collecting Empire

Re-collecting Empire looks at how we discuss, understand, treat, interpret, display and research objects that come from colonial contexts. It aims to tackle legacies of empire and build a more equitable future. Much of this work is ongoing behind the scenes, but an exhibition did take place in summer 2022 that both explored our initial findings and tested how we should discuss colonial contexts in public. The findings from this research will be available here soon.

Digital integration

How do we use digital interpretation in a gallery context? How can we use digital approaches to tell important stories in a gallery when they do not fit with that gallery's main narrative without confusing visitors? Which digital approaches are most engaging? Which are most user friendly?

Our work on digital integration, the first stage of which was funded by Museums Galleries Scotland, explored these questions. The findings will be available here soon.

Research with Museums

Complete a Note of Interest form

Find out more about the Wardlaw Museum research studio and read the manifesto

Find out more about how the museum collections are used in research at the University of St Andrews