Discovering physical objects: Meeting researchers' needs

Added by Sarah on 26 November 2008 18:45

A new report investigates how researchers discover and gain access to physical objects and artefacts and focuses on the current issues for museums and their staff in providing the facilities researchers need.

New release - 26 November 2008

We want museums to get as much information out there as possible, so it is online in what ever format - it doesn’t matter about tidying it up or just putting up the bare minimum.’

The report gives a unique overview of the current situation in the UK and provides a range of recommendations for museums and their supporting organisations, such as Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Collections Trust and the Museums Association.

The traditional role of museums centres on the acquisition, conservation, curation and exhibition of objects and artefacts. Many museums have grown from private collections built up by scholars, and therefore research and scholarship has been fundamental to their mission. Academic researchers have been among the primary users of museums and curators have often been scholars in their chosen fields.

For museums, in recent years, new elements have been added to this role and, for many, their priorities have changed. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) makes no reference to research or scholarship in its four priority areas for museums; widening participation and visitor development have become increasingly important in recent years. There is a renewed interest in object-based research within the academic community and access to museum objects is extremely important.

For many museums however, academic researchers - who do not contribute significantly to visitor numbers - are not now viewed as a key target audience. The report investigates these issues in more detail and focuses on:

  • the availability, scope and quality of finding aids to enable researchers across a range of disciplines to discover information about collections of physical objects and artefacts of relevance to their research,
  •  barriers to the search process, and
  • the use and perceptions of existing finding aids and discovery services by researchers, including any key gaps in coverage or scope.

The report and a summary are available at


Sarah Gentleman - Communications Officer

Email tel 020 7412 7241

Notes to editors:

The Research Information Network

The Research Information Network has been established by the higher education funding councils, the research councils, and the national libraries in the UK. We investigate how efficient and effective the information services provided for the UK research community are, how they are changing, and how they might be improved for the future. We help to ensure that researchers in the UK benefit from world-leading information services, so that they can sustain their position as among the most successful and productive researchers in the world. Visit

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