Smithsonian and University of Glasgow sign MOU

Published: 8 April 2016

The University of Glasgow will today sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smithsonian Institution, formally cementing a relationship which stems back more than 20 years.

The University of Glasgow will today sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smithsonian Institution, formally cementing a relationship which stems back more than 20 years.

The leading institutions will sign the agreement at a special ceremony taking place in Smithsonian Castle, Washington DC, hosted by the Grand Challenges Consortia and the Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative..

The MOU signatories will be Professor James Conroy, Vice-Principal (International), representing the University of Glasgow, and Dr Richard Kurin, Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research, representing the Smithsonian.

For the last 20 years there has been strengthening collaboration between the two institutions, through a project agreement which involved staff exchanges; student placements and research collaboration; a successful series of Summer Schools; and unparalleled research access to historic collections in Scotland and the USA taught by leading academics. Today the bond between the Smithsonian and the University of Glasgow becomes even stronger.

Professor Nick Pearce

Professor James Conroy, speaking on behalf of the University of Glasgow, said: “Today marks a significant moment in both histories of these two world changing institutions. The MOU will forge stronger links for the benefit of all, helping enhance greater learning and knowledge exchange and provide greater opportunities for students and staff both here in Scotland and the United States of America.”

One of the motivations behind the signing of the MOU is the £35m transformation of Glasgow’s prestigious Kelvin Hall, due to be completed in the summer and formally opening in the autumn.

The unique partnership between the University of Glasgow, the Hunterian, Glasgow Life and Museums and the National Library of Scotland, has been instrumental in securing the MOU between the Smithsonian and the University.

Kelvin Hall, an iconic building in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, is unique in bringing together for the first time study and teaching areas, open learning, Glasgow Museums collections, extensive leisure facilities, arts and humanities resources, and most importantly making it more accessible to the general public.

Professor Conroy said: "The MoU reinforces the very essence of what Kelvin Hall represents, the transformation of a landmark building through a unique partnership, bringing together under one roof culture, heritage, academia and leisure, while providing a service to the wider community. The MoU is a seal of approval for all that Kelvin Hall stands for.”

Dr Richard Kurin, speaking on behalf of the Smithsonian, said: “With the opening of the new Kelvin Hall, this MoU strengthens our ties and anticipates future possibilities that could emerge from the relationship.

“We already share historical and contemporary connections. James Smithson visited the University of Glasgow as a young man and this informed his idea to establish a cultural institution in the US dedicated to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”; Robert Dale Owen, who was born and educated in Glasgow, immigrated to the U.S. in 1825 and became a Congressman who helped push through the Smithsonian Institution Bill through Congress, and served on its first Board of Regents.”

“Our current collaborations, on topics ranging from the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Asian art, decorative arts and design to provenance research and cultural heritage, history of science, anthropology, textile conservation, and barkcloth, all involve an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to the arts and sciences, balancing research and teaching, and encouraging new scholarship, methodologies, and public engagement through museum and university programming.”

Professor Murray Pittock, Pro-Vice Principal, for the University of Glasgow, while commenting on today’s signing, said: “The Smithsonian is already engaged in joint research with the University of Glasgow and the level of enthusiasm for further research projects is evident to all. Having the Smithsonian as a partner for the University, and badged in the Kelvin Hall, is a tribute to our international engagement and to the unique facility we are developing at Kelvin Hall.

“Future possibilities include a joint Provenance research network at Kelvin Hall, and meanwhile the College of Arts' Collecting and Provenance MSc students benefit from work placements with the Smithsonian's outstanding team in Washington.”

Media enquiries Jane Chilton 0141 330 3535 /

First published: 8 April 2016

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