Collection care research at Tate addresses the need for new knowledge to explore the many challenges related to the conservation, management and care of Tate’s collection.

Conservator Piers Townshend measuring light levels at the installation of the 2007 Gilbert & George exhibition at Tate Modern.
Conservator Piers Townshend measuring light levels at the installation of the 2007 Gilbert & George exhibition at Tate Modern.

Tate’s collection is diverse and includes:

  • the national collection of British art from the sixteenth century to the present day
  • the national collection of international modern and contemporary art
  • Tate Library, which includes an important collection of artist books
  • Tate Archive, which collects the archives of British artists, art world figures and institutions from 1900 to the present day
  • Tate Public Records, which comprises the museum’s own institutional records
  • shared collections such as Artist Rooms.

Questions pursued through collection care research arise from and relate to areas of practice within the museum such as conservation, collections management, archive and library practice, records management, art handling and photography and other ways in which the collection is documented or represented.

Collection care research undertakes the following types of project:

  • Research that solves practical problems.
  • Research that results in new knowledge about a work or group of works.
  • Research that develops new tools for practice and access or assists in the conservation and management of the collection.
  • Research that facilitates knowledge exchange (for example, with people working with different types of collection, wider research communities or the public).
  • Projects that make primary sources accessible for further research (for example, collections, databases, analysis, documentation and artist interviews).
  • Research that reflects on our practice within broader contexts. 

Collection care research helps promote the role and value of the museum as a research organisation. In addition to valuing research for the new knowledge generated and the advancement of practice, research is also valued for its ability to bring ideas into the organisation, link staff with wider research cultures and support reflective and critical practice. Collection care research is therefore outward-looking and interdisciplinary, and often involves collaboration and partnership with a range of national and international organisations.

Collection Care Research team

Collection care research is led by the Head of Collection Care Research, supported by a Collection Care Research Manager, based in Tate’s Research Department, and is conducted by a body of researchers working on and in research projects, research centres and collaborative doctoral studentships. The team works closely with the Collection Care Division at Tate, liaising over research plans and helping to develop research skills. In addition to larger externally funded projects, a research secondment schemeenables staff to pursue small projects that explore and develop questions arising directly from their work within the museum.

Pip Laurenson
Head of Collection Care Research
February 2014