The National Trust Partnership: Connecting cutting-edge Oxford University research with the National Trust’s places and collections

A look into the collaborative partnership between the National Trust and Oxford University research.


Powis CastlePowis Castle
Launched in 2018, the National Trust Partnership is a collaboration between the University of Oxford and the National Trust, aimed at creating new opportunities for interdisciplinary research, knowledge exchange, public engagement with research, and training at both institutions and beyond. The partnership is founded upon mutual benefit and two-way knowledge exchange. It facilitates new research into the National Trust’s rich portfolio of places and collections, which in turn is embedded into public-facing programmes and initiatives. Meanwhile, researchers benefit from access to the National Trust’s buildings, collections, and landscapes, alongside opportunities to learn from the organisation’s staff, engage with its vast public audiences, and develop further research projects.

The partnership’s activities include research placements and consultancy, conferences, workshops, public lectures and events, PhD projects, student internships, and staff training. One example of these activities is the research undertaken at Powis Castle in Wales into the property’s ‘Clive Museum,’ the largest private collection of Indian artefacts in the United Kingdom, amassed during the British colonisation of India and housed in the castle in the early 19th century. Beginning with a commissioned consultancy role undertaken by Dr Kieran Hazzard to research the collection, including its provenance and wider global connections, the collaboration expanded to include a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship in partnership with the Ashmolean Museum, a new Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), nineteen Oxford student intern placements, National Trust staff training, volunteer talks and new property-based interpretation, alongside academic publications and conference papers. Combining archival research with a wider range of knowledge-exchange activities, the collaboration has deepened understanding of the collection and its context while widening engagement with a broad range of audiences.

The partnership grew out of the Trusted Source Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which ran from 2016 to 2018. Funded by the National Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and Innovate UK, the Trusted Source KTP was piloted as a means to bring academic research into the National Trust by connecting heritage professionals and university academics. The KTP resulted in the creation of new public web content and training opportunities for students and staff at both institutions, was featured as a case study in a UK Government Select Committee and the Mendoza Review of Museums in England, and was graded ‘A: Outstanding’ by Innovate UK.

Now in its third year, the National Trust Partnership continues to develop and test new methods for successful, sustained, and mutually beneficial collaboration between academia and the heritage sector. To highlight only some of the partnership’s achievements, to date:

  • More than 1,100 people have engaged with the partnership’s activities and events;
  • The partnership has engaged with 25 academic institutions, 28 heritage, cultural and conservation institutions, and 19 industry consultants and independent practitioners;
  • More than 200 National Trust staff have received training, through 7 different research training sessions; and
  • 112 students have undertaken week-long internships, contributing almost 4,000 hours of new research.

Funders: National Trust, AHRC, Innovate UK