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Research policy

1. Summary

The Art Gallery of New South Wales developed out of the New South Wales Academy of Art, established in Sydney on 24 April 1871. It was firmly founded on 19th-century ideals of public education and cultural enrichment. Today the Gallery has a rich and varied collection, encompassing Australian and international art. The Gallery and its functions are determined by the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980. The principal objects of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trust, outlined in section 7 of the Act, are to develop and maintain a collection of works of art and to propagate and increase the knowledge and appreciation of art. Research has always been a core activity of the Gallery and directly supports these objectives. The Gallery maintains a strong research profile in the fields of art history and education, collection management, museology, museum-based learning and conservation.

Research also underpins how the Gallery engages with its audiences through the development and delivery of innovative programs for patrons of diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, interests and needs. This policy sets out the principles informing the Gallery’s research activities and the framework for undertaking and disseminating research.

2. Authority

This policy is established by the director and approved by the Board of Trustees pursuant to the Act.

3. Objectives

The objectives of this policy are to:
a. ensure the Gallery continues to act as a research leader in the fields of art history and education, collection management, museology, museum-based learning and conservation
b. enhance the profile and application of the Gallery’s research activities
c. provide a framework to ensure the Gallery’s research supports its strategic goals.

4. Application

This policy applies to research activities and programs and their dissemination.

5. Definitions

In this policy:

  • Act means the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980.

  • Collection means works of art in various media that are Gallery property and have been formally accessioned. The collection also includes other material acquired and accessioned by the Gallery for the purpose of research and enhancement of the collection, including the National Art Archive and study collection.

  • National Art Archive collection means the sum of the institutional archive and the collected archives held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

  • Study collection comprises works of art designated for the purpose of study or research that support or relate to works of art or artists in the collection. The study collection is a sub-category of the collection and works are accessioned.

  • Director means the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

  • Gallery means the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

  • Research is an activity that involves the systematic gathering and analysis of data and other information for the purpose of creating new knowledge and/or using existing knowledge in new and creative ways.

  • Trustee means a member of the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

6. Policy

6.1 Principles

The Gallery’s research priorities will be informed by and contribute to the realisation of its strategic goals of developing, managing and caring for the collection, temporary exhibitions and displays, as well as promoting art scholarship, engaging audiences and inspiring creativity.

The Gallery will ensure it actively maintains and extends its research profile and activity in the fields of art history and education, collection management, museology, museum-based learning and conservation, as befits the national and international standing of its collections, exhibitions, programs and staff. The Gallery’s research activities will reflect its commitment to scholarly, innovative and considered engagement with art history and practice, museology and museum practice, and the role of art in broader social and cultural contexts. The Gallery will also ensure it conducts research in a manner that is ethical and responsible, maintaining and extending the Gallery’s reputation for excellence in the public and museum communities, both nationally and internationally.

The Gallery’s research activities will be made available to its various audiences and to wider art and museum communities through a range of forms and forums. These activities will reflect and engage the Gallery’s diverse patronage and the rapidly changing context for art-related research enabled through technologies and globalisation.

Research undertaken by Gallery staff, or under the auspices of the Gallery, will comply with the Code of Ethics and Conduct, in addition to industry standards and ethics, and will be undertaken with particular attention to issues of cultural sensitivity, protocols for working with minors, intellectual property, copyright and moral rights. With respect to research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture, the Gallery will ensure that this is respectful, responsible and of benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

6.2 Research framework

The strategic management and coordination of the Gallery’s research activities is overseen by the director of collections.

Research will be concentrated in six main areas:
a. collection-related research
b. exhibition-related research
c. program-related research
d. discipline-related research
e. collaborative projects
f. developing research resources.

The Gallery’s collections are an invaluable resource for art-historical research and research into the material and technical aspects of art practice. Collection-related research contributes to the core stewardship functions of collection development and management, documentation and conservation. It involves the study of individual objects and the various contexts in which these objects were created, as well as the context of the collection as a whole.

Collection-related research involves the assessment and documentation of artworks, including media and technique, condition, provenance, exhibition and publication history, as well as the study of their interpretation and significance. Research may focus on individual works, groups of works or the collection as a whole, as well as the collection within and as a reflection of its socio-historic context.

Ongoing exhibition-related research contextualises, promotes and contributes to the accessibility and interpretation of art, including the Gallery’s collection and works on loan, through permanent and temporary displays. Through the research generated by its extensive program of exhibitions, the Gallery also contributes to broader art-historical discourses and positions itself as a leader in the international community of art-historical research.

Program-related research is primarily concerned with in-house exhibitions, public programs and other projects developed to enhance audience experience. Research outputs may include exhibitions and associated interpretive material, lectures, conferences and seminars, publications and online or other digital resources, internships, mentorship programs and scholarships.

Beyond its own collection and programs, the Gallery has a long history of promoting art-historical and related research. The Gallery encourages and supports its staff to maintain their awareness of current research and to contribute to broader academic and professional research in art, culture and museology through a number of avenues (refer 6.3 below).

6.2.5 Collaborative projects

The Gallery is committed to nurturing links with external bodies to support and enhance research activities. Sharing expertise and extending collaborations and affiliations, both nationally and internationally, is a mechanism through which the Gallery can engage with, contribute to and disseminate the knowledge and appreciation of art, art history and professional museum practice.

6.2.6 Developing research resources

In addition to the art collection, the Gallery is recognised for the diversity and depth of its art research collections, which include the National Art Archive and one of the nation’s first dedicated fine arts libraries. These contain a wide range of resources, from archives of artists and galleries, rare books and catalogues, through to research tools, including digital platforms.

The Gallery is committed to maintaining, extending and making these research resources more accessible to staff, art professionals and the general public. The Gallery is also committed to valuing and developing the research capabilities of its staff, as well as enhancing its archival collections and making them accessible to broad audiences.

6.3 Supporting research

The Gallery recognises that the success of its research activities depends on its staff. Where possible, the Gallery is committed to providing support, training and resources for staff to undertake research and will encourage the benefaction and sponsorship of research endeavours. Support for staff may also include fellowships, exchange programs, sabbaticals and study leave.

The Gallery supports the research activities of external scholars and artists through scholarship and internship programs.

6.4 Dissemination of research

The Gallery is committed to ensuring that the outcomes of its research activities are widely accessible through a range of forums and media originating in-house and externally, including publications, the Gallery’s website and other digital platforms, public engagement programs, workshops and seminars.

The Gallery produces and contributes to a wide range of publications, including exhibition catalogues, education resources, collection guides and symposia. The Gallery actively utilises new and innovative ways of communicating its research outputs and will continue to explore new and emerging technologies to enable greater access to its research activities.

6.5 Transparency and accountability

6.5.1 Publication and reporting

The director will ensure that Gallery research outputs, including monographs, book chapters, refereed journal articles, conference proceedings, lectures and presentations by staff, as well as general gallery publications are made publicly available.

6.5.2 Record keeping

In accordance with the Record Keeping Policy and established procedures, staff will maintain records (paper based and/or electronic) regarding research projects and programs.

6.5.3 Internal audit and review cycle

The director will ensure that compliance with this policy is assessed as part of the Gallery’s audit program. The policy will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees on a regular basis in accordance with the Gallery’s audit program.

6.5.4 Staff obligations

Gallery staff involved in research are bound by the Gallery’s Code of Ethics and Conduct and other relevant Gallery policies, including but not limited to the Conflict of Interest Policy, Gifts and Benefits Policy, Fraud Control Policy, Copyright Policy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy and Record Keeping Policy.

7. Responsibilities and compliance

7.1 Acquisitions and Loans Committee

The Acquisitions and Loans Committee is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the Research Policy and ensuring compliance with statutory and other requirements concerning research.

7.2 Executive and staff

The director and deputy director are responsible for ensuring that the process and documentation relating to research conforms to all Gallery policies and that Gallery staff understand and comply with the policies.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy

  • Collection Management Policy

  • Conflict of Interest Policy

  • Exhibitions Development Policy

  • Corruption Prevention Policy

  • Gifts and Benefits Policy

  • Record Keeping Policy

8.2 Guidelines, procedures and associated documents

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures

  • Code of Conduct

8.2.2 National and international guidelines, procedures and associated documents

8.3 Legislation

8.3.1 Commonwealth of Australia

8.3.2 New South Wales

This policy is also informed by the traditions and precedents set since the establishment of the Gallery.