Research undertaken by British Library staff is often reported â€“ even celebrated â€“ on these pages. Imagine the careful research that goes into interpreting the manuscript fragments of medieval bibliophile and bookseller John Bagford, or putting on an exhibition such as Karl and Eleanor Marx: Life in the Reading Room, or indeed in supporting our contribution to UK library infrastructure activities, such as our recent Open and Engaged Conference.
As a national library, research informs and supports almost every aspect of our work, be it curation, conservation, preservation, digital innovation, cultural programming or learning. Whether itâ€™s a major exhibition or a new way to discover or understand a unique part of our collections, it has been enabled by staff research.
Virtually all major museums, galleries, archives and libraries are in the same position. Although research is not our primary function, we all undertake significant amounts of research often based on our collections, and itâ€™s important we make the outputs of that research as open as possible to allow future researchers to take advantage of and build on our work.
To make our research more visible, discoverable and reusable for further research, weâ€™re excited to announce the launch of our Shared Research Repository.
The Shared Repository, currently a beta service, brings together the openly available research outputs produced by staff and research associates of six cultural and heritage organisations: the British Library; the British Museum; MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology); National Museums Scotland; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and Tate. Each partner has their own repository and is responsible for their own content, but users can also explore the combined content using the shared search from the homepage. Articles, book chapters, datasets, exhibition texts, conference presentations, blogs and many more types of our research are now discoverable and downloadable by researchers worldwide. The repository currently holds just a selection of outputs to give a flavour of our research activities, with many more to be added in the coming months.
While UK Higher Education institutions have well established repositories (which are often essential to help manage their research submissions to the Research Excellence Framework research funding process), the research produced by cultural and heritage organisations is often not as visible as weâ€™d like it to be. And indeed should be, since much of it is undertaken with at least some public funding in our role as Independent Research Organisations.
Even within our six current Shared Repository organisations our research is varied and wide-ranging. But browsing the first items already in the repositories also reveals interesting parallels and shared research interests, as in these examples:
- On the subject of written scripts: Pictish symbols: inscribing identity beyond the fringe of empire, National Museums Scotland 2018; Roman London's first voices: writing tablets from the Bloomberg excavations, MOLA 2016; The role of the wax tablet in medieval literacy, British Library 1994.
- On the subject of archaeological research: Discoveries from La Manche: Five Years of Early Prehistoric Research in the Channel Island of Jersey, British Museum 2015; Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2002, National Museums Scotland 2003; Lessons from the past and the future of food, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2019.
- On the subject of paint: The effects of lead and zinc white saponification on surface appearance of paint, Tate 2008; The paint surfaces in the Psalter of Henry of Blois, British Library 1981; A Raman spectroscopic analysis of pigments from Dynastic Egyptian funerary artefacts, National Museums Scotland 2004.
If all goes well weâ€™ll be looking at how we can extend the service both in the volume of content available, and the number and range of partner organisations including beyond the cultural sector.
Do visit our beta Shared Research Repository and explore the research outputs currently deposited. Weâ€™d love to have your feedback so please get in touch with our Repository Services team if youâ€™d like to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Repository Services Lead