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Trusted Source: A new collaboration with the National Trust

Image of Stowe

Oliver Cox (Director, Thames Valley Country House Partnership), Charles Pugh (Consultancy Manager and Curator, National Trust) and Alice Purkiss (Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate) head up the new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the National Trust and the University of Oxford. After two years of careful planning, the project started in February and will run until 2018. We caught up with them to find out more about the project.

For the uninitiated, what is ‘Knowledge Transfer’?
Oliver: It is a way of spreading knowledge from the academic world more widely to public bodies and the business sector. KTPs have traditionally been awarded to the sciences, often for research that can be developed into spin-out products or companies. This is the first time that Oxford's Humanities Division has been awarded one of the Government funded KTPs and it marks an exciting new chapter for Knowledge Transfer.

Why is the project called ‘Trusted Source’?
Oliver:
 The University is a hub of specialist knowledge, and this partnership will enable the National Trust to crowdsource that knowledge. Together, by building upon the Trust’s existing expertise, we will create reliable, accurate and accessible resources that will enrich the visitor’s experience and bring the National Trust’s properties to life in new ways.

What are the aims of the project?
Charles: The National Trust aims to move, teach and inspire, and this new collaboration with Oxford will help us to tell our stories in new and engaging ways. An intellectual engagement could lead to visitors having a greater emotional engagement with our stories and places.  
Alice: In the UK many people choose to spend their leisure time exploring the country’s museums, galleries, historic houses and gardens, and have a strong sense of ownership over them. We know people love these heritage sites, and this project will build on that existing connection.

How will the project benefit researchers?
Oliver:
This project provides a fantastic platform for academics to really change the way people understand important stories or ideas through some of the country’s most significant heritage sites, while giving their research greater impact.
Alice: Many of our projects will be led by DPhil (PhD) students, and it is a great opportunity for them to gain applicable industry experience if they want to consider a career in the heritage sector. They will also be able to conduct new research, create valuable resources, and share their expertise.   

What can we hope to see in the coming years?
Charles: The research and data developed through the project will be consolidated into accessible resources about history, culture and the natural environment, which will be used to enhance existing interpretation on our website and in our room guides and guidebooks, as well as for staff and volunteer training.
Alice: We want the resources to be available at every step of the visitor journey and an important part of that is making them available online. We hope to develop a Wikipedia-style resource for discovering information about heritage sites in the UK. The resource will draw out connections between objects, places, properties and people to allow visitors to gain a better understanding of their wider historical, social and geographical context.
Oliver: Over the next two years we will establish a clear methodology for sharing knowledge between these two leading organisation which we hope will have a significant and lasting impact upon the work of both. In doing so, we will establish a blueprint for collaboration that can be adopted by other academic institutions and heritage organisations across the UK, thereby encouraging further stories about places to be told and enriched through research.

If you would like to find out more about the project please visit the TVCHP website. Oliver and Alice welcome researchers with ideas for collaborations to get in touch, please send an email to oliver.cox@humanities.ox.ac.uk or alice.purkiss@humanities.ox.ac.uk