UCL and the National Trust announce long-term partnership to promote heritage science, sustainable conservation and cultural value

Press release
Oxburgh Hall is undergoing a major project to replace the roof
Published : 21 May 2021

UCL has signed a long-term strategic partnership with the National Trust to help conserve their historical sites and address important heritage challenges.

This new flagship partnership brings together UCL’s world-leading, multidisciplinary research capabilities with the Trust’s expertise on the ground and its inspiring places, sites and collections. 

Focusing on the Trust’s properties, land and collections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the partnership will see staff from the two organisations pooling resources and expertise to explore critical issues including heritage science, sustainable conservation and cultural value.

The collaboration will open the door to significant new opportunities for teaching and students at UCL, building world-class foundations for the heritage professionals of the future. 

The first year of the partnership will see a number of UCL academic secondments taking place across the National Trust to explore areas of mutual interest and co-design a programme of research. The UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies will launch a call for collaborative research projects in the summer. Knowledge exchange initiatives, an innovation network and policy placements will also take place, with studentships and PhDs planned to provide a more specialist foundation for heritage professionals. 

Students on UCL’s new BA Heritage degree programme will benefit from the Trust’s involvement in the development of the degree and its advice on skills and career opportunities. 

Professor Sasha Roseneil, Dean of UCL’s Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, commented: “In 1912, UCL’s Professor Francis Oliver was instrumental in starting a subscription to buy Blakeney Point for the National Trust. It was the first national acquisition of such an important coastal site. 

“With more than 100 years of partnership to build on, UCL and the National Trust are now taking our link an important step further. This new strategic partnership will allow us to pool the significant expertise of two global heavyweights, to protect and conserve the Trust’s unique cultural assets for future generations. 

“We will be bringing together the brightest minds to explore new ways of working, inform policy and demonstrate how university-industry collaborations can provide long-term benefits for local communities and our national heritage.” 

With more than five million members, the National Trust is one of the largest heritage organisations in Europe.  In 2019, the charity became an Independent Research Organisation, a status awarded by UK Research and Innovation to organisations with a strong ability to deliver high-quality research. 

The National Trust’s Dr Ingrid Samuel, Placemaking and Heritage Director, said: “Research underpins the work that the Trust does to look after our places and collections, informing all aspects of heritage management – from the practical testing of new conservation techniques to mitigating effects of climate change on heritage sites.

“Our new strategic partnership with UCL will be grounded in mutual benefit and focus on opportunities for joint research, knowledge exchange and supporting the next generation of heritage professionals. We will be co-creating new technologies and techniques for heritage conservation, encouraging participation in conservation, and exploring better ways of working. At the same time, many of the innovations that come out of this will be centred around global challenges, such as climate change and sustainable architecture, that will be of significance and benefit to the sector as a whole.” 

Rodney Harrison, Professor of Heritage Studies in the UCL Institute of Archaeology, Arts and Humanities, Research Council Heritage Priority Area Leadership and co-Director of the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies Fellow, added: “The rich, interdisciplinary nature of our work at UCL means that we are in a unique position to build on our existing research partnerships to support the National Trust in many interesting, inter-connected ways.”

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation and Global Engagement), comments: “UCL is delighted to establish this new strategic partnership with the National Trust. It is exciting to collaborate for the long-term, using cutting-edge academic research to preserve the legacy of historic environments and places, so that the very best of the UK’s rich cultural heritage can be enjoyed for generations to come.  Addressing the impact of climate change and safeguarding the cultural value of our nation is at the heart of the relationship and demonstrates UCL’s commitment to working in partnership to the benefit of society.”