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Why does the National Trust do research?

PhD student Cecilia Bembibre pictured doing some conservation work on a book which is beneath a glass dome at Knole in Kent, as part of the 'Secrets of the National Trust' television show with Alan Titchmarsh.
PhD student Cecilia Bembibre featured on the first episode of 'Secrets of the National Trust' with Alan Titchmarsh at Knole, Kent | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

The National Trust looks after places for everyone, for ever, but the world around us is constantly changing. Research helps us to understand these changes, learn more about the places in our care, share good practice, answer questions and find practical solutions to conservation problems.

Research at the National Trust

We're an Independent Research Organisation recognised by UK Research and Innovation; a status only awarded to organisations with a strong ability to deliver research for the UK.

Tackling conservation threats

Whether we’re caring for a Tudor mansion, a rare butterfly, a precious habitat, a rugged stretch of coastline or a piece of artwork, we need evidence to make the best conservation decisions. Research helps us to tackle conservation threats – from mould in historic books to habitat loss and plant disease – and to understand their causes.

Sharing good practice

Research allows us to share good practice with other organisations or projects that may require advice. One project on how the planning system is working in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), for example, highlighted some problems. Measures to stop inappropriate development were not always being put into action in some places and through research we were able to suggest ways this could be improved.

A close-up image of an Invertebrate Ecologist in a red branded t-shirt, kneeling on the ground to survey invertebrates at Hambledon Hill.
An Invertebrate Ecologist surveying Hambledon Hill | © National Trust Images/Ross Hoddinott

Working with University of Oxford

The Knowledge Transfer Project with the University of Oxford helps us to share information about properties in new ways too. This exciting project, named Trusted Source, sees academics and National Trust experts using research to produce short, easily understood articles about history, culture and the natural environment.

Volunteer examining a book as part of conservation work in the library at Greyfriars' House and Garden, Worcestershire

Research at the National Trust

We're an Independent Research Organisation recognised by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Our research takes place in many forms – from the PhDs we sponsor and practical testing of new conservation techniques to the hundreds of research projects we collaborate in or host at places in our care each year.

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A view of the harbour cottages at Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island, with the cottages and rocky harbour on the left of the image, and the sea on the right.

National Trust research case studies 

From discovering how to protect historic houses to following the lives of 1,000 northern hairy wood ants with tiny radio receivers, learn more about recent collaborations, including our collaboration with the University of Leicester to support our Everyone Welcome commitment.

Staff working at the Textile Conservation Studio, Norfolk

Work with us: guidance for academics 

Learn more about our research – from the PhDs we sponsor and practical testing of conservation techniques to the hundreds of projects we collaborate in or host each year.

A collage image containing three artworks: a painting of Teresia, Lady Shirley by Van Dyke at Petworth House; an oil painting of a young coachman at Erddig; and a photograph of the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar at Polesden Lacey.

Addressing our histories of colonialism and historic slavery 

Read our report on colonialism and historic slavery in the places and collections we care for and discover how we’re changing the way we approach these issues.