Joining Forces

30 November 2022

MoDiP is very proud to be one of only 33 university museums in 16 institutions to receive funding from Research England to support our research.

With funding from Research England’s Participatory Research Fund, we recently had the opportunity to reflect on our research and it made us aware of the extent to which we participate with people from other organisations. In particular we convene the Plastics Subject Specialist Network (Plastics SSN), one of Arts Council England’s 37 recognised Subject Specialist Networks. Their purpose is to ‘support the development knowledge and care of collections… All the Networks share expertise, ideas and best practice. This is often in the form of research projects, conference days, mentoring and developing best practice guidance’.


The Identifying Plastics Toolkit (left) and
Confronting Plastics Preservation project (right)

Since the refocusing of our collection on design in plastics in 2007, we have worked on three significant projects with the Plastics SSN: A curator’s guide to plastics; Identifying plastics toolkit; and Confronting Plastics Preservation, and currently are coming to the end of a further Plastics SSN project undertaken jointly with the Dress and Textiles Specialists’: A curator’s guide to synthetic garments. We have also undertaken two other joint projects: 10 Most Wanted and Symbiosis. The first, in partnership with the University of Brighton and Adaptive Technologies, aimed to develop a resource to engage the public with finding out information about objects in collections thus engaging them with collections in a new way.  The second brought small specialist museums together to explore how they could engage with their particular industry to mutual advantage and to develop workforce skills in this respect.


The 10 Most Wanted project was undertaken in partnership
with the University of Brighton and Adaptive Technologies

Analysis of these projects has led us to consider what we do in terms of ‘participatory research’, a form of research in which the clear distinction between the ‘researcher’ and ‘the subject’ becomes blurred with the research being conducted ‘with’ rather than ‘on’ participants. Most often this has been seen as research jointly undertaken between those researching a subject and those affected by the research, with the latter often characterised as ‘not trained in research’. However, we propose a new model of participatory research: one in which experts working in museums create resources for their own benefit, albeit ultimately in order to improve public engagement with the subject.

The Joining Forces resource is available online.

This new resource, downloadable from our website, provides a brief introduction to participatory research and an overview of participatory research in museums. It also looks at this alternative model and provides summary guidelines on how to undertake it based on an analysis of the six MoDiP projects which underpin the model.

Do tell us what you think

Joining forces: exploring participatory research in museums is a peer-reviewed resource. We would be so grateful if you were to read it and let us know what you think. Have you undertaken research with partners in similar ways or has it made you see new ways you might get together with people to investigate your subject? How can we improve the resource? We have found that working with others in this way has developed and extended our practice and we hope that other museums, small and large, may be helped by this resource to undertake participatory research and thus benefit from what has for MoDiP been a fruitful research pathway. Please do get in touch:


Susan Lambert
Chief Curator