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Special Collections & Archives: The University of Liverpool Heritage and Culture Strategyaccredited archive service logo

SC&A includes manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections.

Heritage and Culture Strategy 2017-2022

Revised December 2020

  1. Introduction

The University of Liverpool has, since 1881, worked for ‘the advancement of learning and ennoblement of life’. We are a local and an international institution with heritage collections - acquired as a consequence of the vision of our founders and benefactors – that are a testament to the political, economic, social and cultural significance of the city of Liverpool. As a truly civic University – the original red brick – we seek to use these collections to engage and empower the University community in its broadest sense: our staff and students, but also communities across the city region, nationally, and internationally. We continue to find inspiration – for learning, for the creation of knowledge, and for the promotion of our values of tolerance, social justice and inclusion - in the extraordinary and complex heritage and culture of Liverpool, the first global city.

The University’s own pioneering heritage includes the transmission of the first radio signal (1894), the foundation of the country’s first schools of Architecture (1895) and Archaeology (1904), and the creation of the world’s first Planning School (1909). We have produced nine Nobel Laureates and are proud to have contributed to the development of world-leading research and teaching across all disciplines, whilst continuing to strive for future impact and academic excellence, including through our developing Heritage institutional research theme.

Our collections include many important and notable items, many documenting the history of the University itself and the rich contribution the University has made to science.  The collections range through time and space from ancient artefacts to born-digital archives and encompass objects, art works, internationally important collections of material excavated in Sudan and Egypt and one of the strongest collections of ancient Nubian material in the UK, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, a wealth of literary, political and organisational archives, early printed books and Europe’s largest Science Fiction archive. They are cared for and made accessible by nationally Accredited Museum & Archive services based in the Victoria Gallery & Museum, the Garstang Museum of Archaeology, and the University Library.

Our partnerships with local and national cultural organisations, community groups and international initiatives are well developed and growing. Recognising the importance of working with others who share our aims, we aim to nurture existing links and forge new ones, based on a shared understanding of, and commitment to, the transformative impact of heritage and culture.

We recognise that we face many current and new challenges.  It is vital that our collections are well researched, interpreted and communicated, and made accessible to as many audiences as possible.

This Strategy sets out how we will build on our current strengths to advance the objectives of the University’s Strategy 2026, to create and transmit original knowledge for its own sake, and to benefit our students, colleagues, alumni, stakeholders and wider communities locally, nationally and internationally.

  1. Vision

As a Civic University based in a world city, successful stewardship and promotion of our heritage collections and cultural endeavours are intrinsically linked to the communities we serve.

We see our heritage collections as a dynamic resource, illuminating the past – good or ill - and speaking to the present. We will seek to place our activities in the context of contemporary events such as, but not limited to, the 2020-21 pandemic and ongoing equality and diversity debates. The cruelties and iniquities of the British Empire, instrumental in Liverpool’s 19th century wealth and status, must be acknowledged. We seek to celebrate our pioneering heritage where appropriate with an awareness of the broader context, and a commitment to engaging in open partnership with affected communities to address shared legacies.

In 2008 Liverpool was a highly successful European Capital of Culture, promoted as ‘the world in one city’. Liverpool’s regeneration in the subsequent decade rests in no small part on the inspirational properties of heritage and culture, and this experience is reflected in our vision:

An awareness and understanding of heritage and culture, and the benefits they bring – intellectual, psychological and physical – should inform every aspect of University life.

To this end the University will, by 2026, be:-

  • A world-renowned centre of excellence for research and teaching in disciplines related to heritage and culture;
  • Internationally recognised for its inspiring, challenging and stimulating approach to heritage and culture;
  • An anchor institution for the city of Liverpool and the North West, actively and positively participating in the region’s cultural life and the understanding of its heritage, and, by this means, contributing to the regional economy;
  • Known for recognising how heritage and culture can provide a physical and intellectual environment supportive of our members’ wellbeing and success;
  • Well advanced in a review and reinterpretation of our own heritage and collections to understand and acknowledge all aspects of our history in a local, national and global context.

The success of the University in delivering this vision will be regularly evaluated using the measures described in the appendix.

  1. Ambitions – what we will do

The University will achieve the vision described above through four related strands of activity:

  • Public Engagement, Access & Participation
  • Research
  • Education
  • University Environment and Life

Public Engagement, Access & Participation

We will:-

  • Increase and enhance public engagement with the University through the use of our collections both physically, digitally and through the development of new outreach resources.  We will develop and promote events to attract and engage with diverse new audiences and stakeholder groups, including community groups and schools, as well as enhancing existing relationships.  We will pay particular attention to supporting under-represented social groups;
  • Promote public understanding of the University’s history, work and the impact and legacy of this around the world.  As part of this we will consciously use the interpretation of our heritage and collections to promote a rounded, honest view of our history in collaboration, where possible, with relevant stakeholders;
  • Seek to further develop and promote a digital presence for heritage collections, broadening access for new and existing audiences via a variety of platforms;
  • Engage positively and creatively with community groups, the regional economy and stakeholder bodies (e.g. Liverpool City Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) to enhance the understanding of the region’s heritage and to contribute to and promote its cultural activity.


We will:-

  • Create and co-create with our students and partners new knowledge in relation to our institutional research theme in Heritage, as well as those subject areas that can contribute to the interpretation of heritage, with all three Faculties having a role to play. We will draw on our heritage and cultural collections in our research;
  • Use our research to gain and communicate an enhanced understanding of the University’s own history and evolving relationship with society;
  • Develop and maintain world-leading collections for use by the global academic community;
  • Use related activities such as festivals, conferences, symposiums, displays and other events to promote the University’s research strengths and their impact.
  • Ensure that we have appropriate infrastructure to underpin research activities, particularly in terms of digital access and sustainability.


We will:-

  • Use our heritage and culture related presence to promote and enhance study at all levels at the University of Liverpool, including lifelong learning, and support our work in widening access to and participation with the University, in line with the University’s Access & Participation Plan;
  • Use heritage and culture related events to contribute to an environment that is conducive to the retention and success of our students (see Life of Our Members and the University Environment, below).  This will include improving the career opportunities for our students through the establishment and exploitation of professional and organisational networks in relevant fields, and by supporting the city region’s cultural economy with a view to increasing graduate retention;
  • Use heritage and culture related collections and events as a means of realising research-connected teaching and otherwise enhancing students’ curricula and extra curricula experience;
  • Use our collections to promote lifelong learning and enjoyment of heritage and culture.

The Life of Our Members and the University Environment

We will use our heritage and culture related collections and events to:-

  • Create better places for our members to live and work in a way that is consistent with the University’s mission - ‘advancement of learning and ennoblement of life’.  In this way, we will attract and welcome staff and their families to the University, and enhance our reputation as an employer of choice;
  • Increase opportunities for employee engagement, by encouraging them to learn about the University’s history, to understand and contribute to the contemporary identity of the University, and to feel a sense of ownership of what we are and what we do through attendance at and active participation in relevant events;
  • To support positive wellbeing by enhancing the environment for work and study, and by ensuring our approach is inclusive for all parts of the University community;
  • Increase the engagement of our alumni, particularly those from overseas, in the current life of the University;
  • Communicate and, where appropriate, celebrate and bring to the fore the heritage of our own campuses, seeking to inform the University’s Estates Strategy in this way, and finding innovative ways to interpret and communicate the story of the University and the physical and intellectual space it occupies to our colleagues and students.
  • Through agreed protocols, ensure that appropriate individuals are celebrated through the naming of parts of the University estate, Chairs, scholarships and other awards.
  • Aid University recruitment initiatives, both within the UK and internationally, particularly at post-graduate level.
  1. Underpinning principles - how we will do it

In pursuit of the above, we will:-

  • Communicate to our members and the wider community the University’s cultural and heritage offer;
  • Make our collections and events as widely discoverable, accessible and inclusive as possible, including through their interpretation, creative promotion, and media engagement;
  • Care for our collections in line with the highest professional standards;
  • Undertake a full audit of our collections, with a particular focus on their provenance  and their evolving social and cultural significance;
  • Be honest in our articulation of the University’s heritage, and the contexts within which it was founded and developed;
  • Actively seek partnership with appropriate heritage organisations, locally, nationally and internationally;
  • Strategically align our activities to benefit from and contribute to the priorities of our partners, the region and cultural and historical timelines;
  • Develop a creative approach to borrowing and lending items to achieve maximum impact;
  • Actively seek external funding to optimise our activities;
  • Achieve or maintain accreditation with appropriate professional bodies;
  • Develop and keep under review the University’s naming protocols;
  • Publish an annual report, describing the progress made against this Strategy, and capturing key outcomes, case studies and milestones.