Glasgow University links up with Smithsonian

The University of Glasgow has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC to formalise a relationship that goes back more than 20 years.

One of the drivers of the agreement is the £35 million transformation of Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall due to be completed later this year.

The partnership for the Kelvin Hall development between the University of Glasgow, the Hunterian, Glasgow Life and Museums and the National Library of Scotland has been instrumental in securing the MOU with the Smithsonian.

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

The Smithsonian and the University of Glasgow have worked together for the last 20 years on research collaboration, staff exchanges, student placements and summer schools.

“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,” said Conroy.

“The MoU is a seal of approval for all that Kelvin Hall stands for.”

Dr Richard Kurin 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, University of Glasgow, 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.”