REACH Consortium (Revisiting and Enhancing Approaches to Collections and Heritage) AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

ahrc reach


The REACH Consortium, which was awarded an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership in May 2019 unites 5 nationally significant heritage institutions which together attract 38 million visitors per annum and combine 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Our focus is on the construction of diverse identities in British and global contexts, and their representation or invisibility within historic and contemporary heritage practices and debates. These themes express our common strategic objective to generate public-facing outcomes addressing new perspectives, foregrounding underused resources and reshaping expectations of our collections and priorities.


The consortium represents our desire to mobilize a) our shared research themes b) the links across our world-class resources, and c) our cross-disciplinary staff expertise.


Wide HEI involvement and close institutional collaboration are key to our ambitions, and REACH outcomes will have extensive impact and engagement benefits across HEI and heritage sectors. REACH comprises:


Royal Museums Greenwich (PI; Independent Research Organization or “IRO” since 2006): comprises the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House, the Royal Observatory, and the tea clipper Cutty Sark. Collections relate to British and global histories, maritime history, art, science and heritage science


National Portrait Gallery (IRO since 2006): promotes, through portraiture, appreciation of men and women who have contributed to British history and culture, and understanding of portraits in all media. Collections comprise paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and archives


Historic Royal Palaces (IRO since 2015): responsible for the Tower of London, Hampton Court, Kensington, Kew, Whitehall Banqueting House and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens. Collections include material culture, fine art, fashion and archives


British Film Institute (IRO since 2017): holds one of the world's largest collections of moving image materials including feature and documentary films, tv programmes, photographs, scripts, posters and personal papers


National Trust (IRO since 2019): one of the world's largest heritage organizations. Responsible for, among other things, 28,000 historic houses, alongside landscapes, material culture, fine art and archival collections


REACH members all have track records of mutually beneficial collaboration with HEIs, co-supervising doctorates with 34 universities in the last 5 years and developing numerous successful AHRC research bids. REACH will expand this network, using HEI collaboration to enhance the range of disciplinary approaches we support.


REACH will encourage projects across the 3 AHRC Primary Research Areas: Histories, Cultures and Heritage; Creative and Performing Arts; Languages and Literature. Particular emphasis is placed on: History; Cultural and Museum Studies; Design; Media; Visual Arts; Archaeology; Information and Communication Technologies; Political Science and International Studies; Religion; and Literature. Work in aspects of defined AHRC interest in Area Studies and Cultural Geography will be supported.


REACH will use its scale and close strategic alignment to construct a distinctive student experience, including: cross-consortium research projects; wide supervisory resources; clear structures for supervision, feedback and mentoring; flexible training and placement programmes across members; a vibrant consortium cohort; and outstanding opportunities for developing research, communication, project management and networking skills. REACH's aims mean we actively seek applications from individuals whose backgrounds are under-represented in the heritage sector and the histories it communicates.


While REACH management and cohort development will be based mainly in London, it will have national relevance through HEI collaborations; NMM, NPG and BFI collections; HRP's responsibility for Hillsborough Castle; and NT's presence across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Call for Expressions of Interest for studentship proposals starting in October 2020


Expressions of Interest in submitting a collaborative studentship proposal are now being sought from HEIs to collaborate with one or more of the five REACH heritage partner organisations listed above.




A key ambition of the REACH consortium is to forge genuinely cross-consortium projects, so we encourage HEI partners to approach us creatively, thinking across our joint collections and concerns and to relate the project to one or more of the REACH overarching themes below:


  1. Identities in imperial and global contexts 
  2. The migration of people, objects and ideas
  3. Cultural approaches to science, technology and digital media
  4. Identities, ideologies and heritage narratives


NB we see themes of diversity, gender and sexuality running across all these categories


Practical models of cross-consortium doctoral projects might include:


  • a completely jointly conceived and co-supervised project between an HEI and two REACH heritage partners which draws on both partners’ sites, collections and subject matter equally (although one heritage partner will still need to be named as lead co-supervisor for administrative purposes);
  • a project that is mostly led and co-supervised by one heritage partner (together with the HEI co-supervisor) because the majority of the collections and motivation for the project lies with this partner, but with an additional heritage partner named as ‘second heritage co-supervisor’ because they have important complementary collections;
  • a project where the involvement of a second heritage partner might not be significant enough to warrant official co-supervision. In these cases, that partner (or partners) may be listed on the project as ‘providing access to collections that may help inform the project’.


If in any doubt, please ask for guidance.




To submit an Expression of Interest, you should complete the attached Expression of Interest form by Wednesday 25 September 2019.


Your proposal will then be sifted by the REACH steering committee, and if your project is suitable, you will be invited to complete a full proposal application by the end of November 2019. A final sift will then be undertaken to determine the final studentship projects that will submitted to the AHRC.


REACH CDP Consortium EOI Form 2020.doc

REACH CDP Consortium EOI Form 2020.doc