National Trust awarded Independent Research Organisation status enabling it to explore new conservation techniques and enrich visitor experiences

Press release
Archaeological Survey on Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, Devon
Published : 06 Jun 2019

The National Trust has been awarded Independent Research Organisation (IRO) status enabling it to collaborate further with researchers across culture, history and the natural environment.

The conservation charity has a long tradition of supporting and engaging with researchers. Recent projects range from protecting the wildlife in our lakes to the history of sleep in Tudor England.

This new IRO status, awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) on behalf of UK Research and Innovation, is a step towards the Trust’s ambition to embed research excellence at the heart of all its activities. 

The Trust can now apply directly to the UK Research Councils for funding enabling it to increase its research capability. It joins other research-led organisations with IRO status including the V & A, Historic England and the RSPB.

On-going and recent research projects where the Trust has collaborated with partners include:

  • Innovative approaches to sharing collections: Using mobile phone technology to increase visitor access to the historic book collections in Trust libraries, trialled at Wimpole Hall.  
  • Conserving properties and collections: finding new ways to prevent mould growth on precious interiors and objects.
  • Understanding and protecting the environment: Mapping the state of the Trust’s lakes to ensure they, and their wildlife, continue to be cared for in the face of climate change.
  • Untold stories and new perspectives: Developing knowledge and sharing of Jewish heritage in country houses including Waddesdon, Upton House and Hughenden Manor.
  • Involving local communities: Working with local archaeologists and volunteers to plan and excavate sites in local villages.  
  • Lessons from history for living today: Recreating Tudor sleeping habits and their natural sleep aids at Little Moreton Hall and helping people today to improve their sleep.

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust says:

“National Trust places need to be rooted in great research. It helps us better understand and look after the places we protect, as well as uncover the hidden stories of the people who shaped them and share these with our visitors.

“The many exceptional properties, collections and land holdings in our care, combined with the expertise of our staff, provide a unique opportunity for new discoveries across culture, history and the natural environment.

“I am delighted that our new IRO status will help us to unlock so much more of this research potential, and strengthen our partnerships with the academic community.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, says:

“I’m pleased to be able to welcome the National Trust into the family of Independent Research Organisations. We are proud of the research that we fund at museums, libraries, galleries, archives and heritage organisations across the UK.

“This research ranges from support for the next generation of researchers working in and with our flagship cultural institutions all the way to major collaborative research projects that help to create the exhibitions of the future. The designation now opens up a new chapter in the National Trust’s story.”

The Trust’s Research Strategy sets out priority areas where the charity is keen to develop new partnerships with academics with an interest in high impact research.

Nino Strachey, National Trust’s Head of Research adds:

“Our existing partnerships, such as those with the Universities of Oxford and Manchester, have helped us to share diverse histories, improve our conservation work, and build understanding of our properties’ natural environment or cultural heritage significance.

“The PhD studies we have hosted show the range of research interests we have, from heritage science and species management to climate change, audience engagement and social history.

“We can now look forward to working further in partnership with universities and other IROs to meet our ambitions for innovative research.”

To find out more about the National Trust’s Research Strategy and opportunities for partnerships visit