Mapping Museums: the history and geography of the UK 1960-2020

Awarded £1,023,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, research began in October 2016 and continued until September 2021. 

During the late twentieth century, the number of museums in the UK more than tripled. The Mapping Museums research project was devised in response to the absence of coherent data on that expansion. Our aim was to document and analyse how the sector changed between 1960 and 2020. 

We collected and validated data on over 4,000 museums, and we designed a database that allowed that information to be searched and visualised in nuanced ways. When we analysed the data we found that the rise in numbers of museums was mainly due to the foundation of small, independent museums and especially those that concentrated on local history, war and conflict, and transport. We wanted to know who had founded them, why, and how, and those ends we interviewed the founders. That research resulted in a rich oral history that weaves together personal experience and social change and that places ordinary people at the centre of cultural production.  

The audio and transcriptions of the interviews that we conducted with museum founders are available via the Bishopsgate Institute Archive website.  

Detailed information on our methods and many other resources are available on the Mapping Museums project website.