The National Trust and Oxford University are teaming up in a bid to improve the visitor experience at historic properties in London and the South East of England.
Oxford’s Faculty of History and the National Trust have been awarded a Knowledge Transfer Partnership which will see Oxford academics working with the National Trust to explore ways of using research to improve visitors’ enjoyment of and engagement with historic places, like Stowe Landscape Gardens.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are part-government funded programmes intended to help spread knowledge from the academic world more widely to public bodies and the business sector. KTPs are usually awarded to science projects and this is the first time Oxford’s Humanities Division has been awarded one.
Dr Oliver Cox, an Oxford historian who is managing the partnership, said: ‘The National Trust has incredible collections at its properties but it does not always have access to academic sources and references.
‘This partnership will let the National Trust crowdsource the knowledge of Oxford’s world-leading social historians and, together, we will develop resources bring these National Trust properties to life.
‘We will be focusing on showing people more of the research that is happening into country houses, and presenting this research through stories which engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
‘We also hope the resources we develop will be used outside of the properties, by schools and interested members of the public.’
Dr Cox says the partnership will also benefit Humanities academics who take part. ‘We hope this will create a new cadre of engaged academics who are aware of the utility of their expertise beyond the immediate priorities of publishing and teaching,’ he said.
‘Academics will work with experts in public engagement and visitor experience at the National Trust and hopefully this will feed back into teaching and graduate seminar programmes.
‘By holding regular events with the National Trust, I expect other partnerships of shared research and engagement interests to develop.’
Alison Evans, the National Trust’s Assistant Director of Operations in London and the South-East and Project Lead for the KTP said: ‘We’re very excited about this partnership with the humanities academics at Oxford University – their research will help us enrich and add depth to the stories we can tell about the special places in our care.
‘The wealth of data amassed in the project will be consolidated into pithy, easily understood articles about history, culture and the natural environment. The information will then be shared throughout the National Trust to be used in staff and volunteer induction training, by room guides in houses, for interpretation at our places and in guidebooks. It will also be shared on the internet for everyone to access.’
The project will be supported by TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities.