University of Glasgow signs Strategic Partnership agreement with Smithsonian

Published: 6 June 2018

The University of Glasgow and the Smithsonian Institution will today enter into a major cross Atlantic partnership agreement.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli and Provost Dr John Davis signing the new strategic partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Smithsonian Photo Michael Barnes

The University of Glasgow and the Smithsonian Institution will today enter into a major cross Atlantic partnership agreement.

This is a significant development in the relationship between two of the most prominent research and teaching institutions in the world.

The new strategic partnership continues the unparalleled access to historic collections in Scotland and the USA taught by leading academics, who are also crossing the Atlantic in both directions to purse major research collaborations.

The new agreement covers everything from antiquities to astrophysics, and from preservation of natural ecosystems to the protection of culture heritage including both institutions’ Whistler collections and worldwide research in traditional Pacific barkcloth.

The Smithsonian (1846) is the largest museum, education and research organisation in the world, with 19 museums, nine research centres, 154 million objects and an annual budget of $1.5bn (for fiscal year 2018). ‌‌

The institutions will sign the agreement today (6 June 2018) at a special ceremony being held in Washington DC. The Strategic Partnership agreement builds upon a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two institutions in 2016.

The new agreement will also extend staff research collaborations and exchanges as well as student internships and work placements.

The signatories will be Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow and Smithsonian Provost Dr. John Davis, who is also Under Secretary for Museums, Education, and Research at the Institution.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, who will also meet Glasgow students currently on work placement at the Smithsonian, said: “The University of Glasgow is proud of our reputation as a leading place of learning, teaching and research in Scotland. But at the same time we have always had an international outlook.

“This agreement will significantly develop and enhance our close working partnership with colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution as well as strengthening our bonds of friendship.”  ‌

Smithsonian Provost Dr. John Davis said: “This strategic partnership between the Smithsonian and the University of Glasgow builds on the strong bonds these two great institutions already share. We look forward to many more ‌years of collaborating and exchanging ideas on the important issues facing our world today.”

Staff and students from the University of Glasgow and Smithsonian already working in partnership or on placement in Washington DC in Whistler's Peacock Room. Picture Michael Barnes

The Smithsonian and the University of Glasgow first began collaborating in 1993 on their world renowned collections of work by American-born artist James McNeill Whistler.‌

But this relationship goes back to the founder of the Smithsonian – James Smithson who visited the University of Glasgow as a young man and this informed his idea to establish a cultural institution in America to the “increase‌ and diffusion of knowledge”.

Professor Nick Pearce is currently working on an Asian Art Provenance project with experts at the Smithsonian’s Freer-Sackler Galleries and his students in Collecting and Provenance are benefitting from work placements in Washington.

Professor Pearce, the Richmond Chair of Fine Arts (History of Art) at the University of Glasgow and a Smithsonian Research Associate, said: “We are already engaged in exciting joint research projects and the Smithsonian is an important international partner for us in so many areas. Glasgow students are also benefitting from work placements and knowledge exchange which is wonderful for our community of learners, teachers and researchers.

“Our agreement to create a strategic partnership between our two institutions is recognition of our existing and potential areas of collaboration and research.”

The Smithsonian is the University’s 4th strategic partnership and joins America’s Columbia University; Canada’s McGill University and China’s Nankai University.

In 2016, the Smithsonian and University signed a Memorandum of Understanding. One of the motivations behind the signing was the transformation of Glasgow’s prestigious Kelvin Hall.

Kelvin Hall, is a unique partnership between University of Glasgow, The Hunterian, Glasgow Life and Museums and the National Library of Scotland, bringing together 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.

University of Glasgow student who are on placement with the Smithsonian in Provenance Research and Collecting and Provenance Studies meet with Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli in the Whistler Peacock Room to speak of their experience as interns. Photo Michael Barnes

First published: 6 June 2018

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