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MLA's International Activity

These pages contain detailed information on MLA’s international activity including our strategy, progress, copies of reports, sources of funding, information on export, networks and links to useful organisations. This section will be updated and expanded over the coming months to provide a resource demonstrating the benefits of international working and practical information.

In September 2002 MLA published its international strategy International Activity: A Strategic Plan for Action 2002/06 (PDF)format: pdf v.1.4.

To order a hard copy of this publication please email MLA's distributor, Central Books via

The strategy provides the framework for future collaboration with partners in this country and overseas on international issues. The ambitions section of the strategy gives the following four areas as priorities:

  • Mapping international activity in English museums, archives and libraries
  • Establishing advice points for international funding sources, export and cultural property
  • Developing an international exchange programme for the sector
  • Developing an intelligence gathering and information service

For the remainder of 2003/4 it has been agreed that the focus of international activity within MLA should be scoped around MLA's six key priorities:

1. Advocacy for the Government's Spending Review in 2004
2. Archives Task Force
3. Renaissance in the Regions
4. Framework for the Future
5. Inspiring Learning for All
6. Workforce Development

For each of these areas of work we will be gathering international best practice case studies and developing relevant partnerships where appropriate.

In addition, over this summer, MLA has been involved in joint planning for 2004-7 with the Regional Agencies for museums, archives and libraries. The international summits held as part of this process have highlighted a number of areas for action for both MLA and the Regional Agencies which will be taken forward together in the next financial year. The background papers and minutes of these meetings are available.

Progress on all these initiatives is explained in the sections below.

Global Perspectives
Mapping International Activity in English Museums, Archives and Libraries
Overseas Funding Sources
Mapping Overseas Infrastructures
Exporting Skills and Services Overseas
Information Sources
Case Studies

Global Perspectives

On 29 and 30 January 2003 MLA held a two-day conference at the British Library to discuss the implications of MLA's International Strategy in relation to the international role of museums, archives and libraries in the UK. The event was Chaired by Mark Wood, MLA's Chair, opened by Baroness Blackstone who was at that time the Minister for the Arts. The keynote speaker was the Cultural Heritage Specialist from the World Bank, Eleanor Fink who presented a number of important arguments for the integration of culture in development issues. Her presentation (PowerPoint)format: ppt is available here. 130 delegates attended from all over the UK. Through discussion workshops on the second day, they put forward a number of proposals for the implementation of the strategy which MLA has taken seriously in our work for this and future years. The outcomes of these discussions (PDF 60KB)format: pdf v.1.4 are summarised here. The full proceedings will be available from this website shortly.

Mapping International Activity in English Museums, Archives and Libraries

MLA commissioned the Cultural Heritage Consortium to:

  • Gain a comprehensive picture of the international activity in which museums, archives and libraries in the English regions are engaged;
  • Identify international opportunities which are not being taken up the sector;
  • Provide recommendations and suggest the appropriate next steps to ensure that, in the long-term, the information on international activity is obtainable and available to stakeholders, policy makers, planners and individual institutions and organisation within the sector.
  • Bring the results of the research into a comprehensive report appropriate for publishing in hard copy as well as on MLA's web site.

The methodology for the project included face-to-face interviews with those carrying out international work in England; interviews with support organisations including the professional organisations; and an email survey questionnaire.

Read the final report, including recommendations:

Mapping International Activity in English Museums, Archives & Libraries PDF (721KB)format: pdf v.1.4

Overseas Funding Sources

MLA commissioned the Cultural Heritage Consortium to map international sources of funding for the sector. They were asked to focus on those areas of international funding not exploited fully by the sector to date including:

  • Charitable trusts and foundations
  • Corporate funding and sponsorship
  • Non-governmental organisations' support for the sector

Read the full report: Mapping International Funding Sources PDF (582KB)format: pdf v.1.4

The report focuses on the areas given above and therefore does not include information on the European Commission's 6th Framework Programme, information on which is available from the Commission's CORDIS website or from UKISHELP the UK's national contact point for advice on Information Society Programme funding.

It also excludes information on Culture 2000, the European Commission's framework programme for culture. Further information on this can be accessed through the website of the Education and Culture Directorate General of the European Commission or from EUCLID the UK's national contact point for advice on the European Commission's cultural funds. EUCLID is also running a series of seminars related to the current call for proposals for Culture 2000.

The South East Museum, Library & Archive Council (SEMLAC), the British Library and MLA are working together on a funding guide for the sector. The work is being carried out by Matthews Millman with Carole Strachan Associates and will integrate the information provided by the report described above so that the guide describes both national and international funding sources. Further information on the project will be included in this site as the project progresses.

Mapping Overseas Infrastructures

Visiting Arts was commissioned by MLA to carry out a mapping exercise for museums, archives and libraries and the infrastructure which supports them in Hungary and Slovenia. This builds on the work they have already done in their Arts Directories, but scopes it around the needs of our sector. The aim of the project is to provide practical information for museum, archive and library professionals wishing to explore opportunities for developing collaborative links with Hungary or Slovenia. This will be of use to those experienced in international co-operation as well as those considering it for the first time.

The final report on Slovenia (PDF 971KB)format: pdf v.1.4 is available here. The Hungary report will be included in the website as soon as it is available. More

Exporting Skills and Services Overseas

MLA part funds the work of an Export Adviser focusing on the needs of our sector together with Trade Partners UK (TPUK) and the British Council.

Mark Taylor, the Director of the Museums Association chairs the Tourism and Heritage Export (THE) Group which manages the work carried out by Jane Weeks, the Export Adviser. THE is a new body replacing the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Group (CHAT). It will provide TPUK and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) with industry-driven guidance on the dispersal of Government financial, human and political resources for export initiatives related to our sector.

The work of the Export Adviser began in 2000 with a focus on museums. In 2003 Trade Partners UK and MLA commissioned ABL Cultural Consulting to carry out a review of the work of the CHAT group and the Export Adviser role to map the achievements of the scheme to date against the level of investment by partners.

One of the recommendations of the report was that the Export Adviser and MLA should work with the professional bodies for the sector to extend the programme to archives and libraries.

Read the initial scoping document (PDF 76KB)format: pdf v.1.4 for this work.

The aims of the project are:

  • To provide advice and support for museums, archives and libraries wishing to export their skills and services overseas;
  • To ensure museums are made aware of the support available to them through TPUK; the regional Business Link network; Commercial Officers with Embassies and British Council Officers
  • And to ensure that those organisations and individuals are aware of the needs of the museums sector and have access to the right information to help them advise the sector effectively.

For further information on the advice available contact Jane Weeks , Export Adviser or look at the Creativexport website. Trade Partners UK, the Government's export promotion organisations provide a range of services which are explained on the Trade Partners website. These include the Exporters Database and the Sales Lead Service.


The Forum for Network Co-ordination represents the UK node of the Digitising Content Together Initiative. This joint initiative of Member States and the European Commission aims to co-ordinate digitisation activities, and to build a platform for enhanced collaboration between the countries in terms of sharing skills, best practices and standards. It forms part of the action plan for eEurope, agreed by the Council of Ministers at the Feira summit in June 2000. Each member state has nominated an expert to a National Representatives Group. In the UK the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has nominated David Dawson of the People's Network Development Team.

European Networks are also supported by the Education and Culture Directorate General of the European Commission. The instrument for funding for this type of support is the Culture 2000 Framework Programme information on which is accessed through the European Culture Portal.

MLA is also involved in NAPLE - European Public Libraries in Development which aims to find ways to meet the changing needs of the users in a networked and complex society, and to find solutions to the challenges which libraries face beyond national borders and policies.

NEMO is the Network for European Museum Organisations. The Museums Association represents the UK at Network meetings together with MLA. It is a forum for the exchange of information on European issues, including European Commission funding programmes. The next meeting of the Network is being held in Berlin from 28-30 November.

ICCROM is the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. It is governed by a General Assembly, which meets every two years. Delegates from the organisation's 100 Member States attend. The meeting takes place at the headquarters of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has delegated the UK responsibility for General Assembly to both English Heritage, representing the immovable heritage, and MLA, representing the movable. The next meeting will be held from 19 to 21 November.

Information Sources

There are many opportunities for our sector in the international arena, opportunities which could be taken up to a greater extent. The following links are to websites of organisations which can provide information, advice and support on those opportunities, and have not already been mentioned in these pages. Email discussion and distribution lists are often a useful way of keeping up-to-date with international issues, several of the websites listed below have discussion lists which you can join simply through the site. The information here provides an initial starting point for those who wish to learn more about international engagement and stay in touch with colleagues in other countries. It will be updated regularly, but is not comprehensive.

Europa - European Union On-Line
European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations
European Cultural Foundation
European Forum for the Arts and Heritage (EFAH)
European Museums Information Institute (EMII)
European Regional Branch of the ICA
International Council on Archives (ICA)
International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)
Italian Presidency of the European Union (June to December 2003)
The International Committee of the Blue Shield
The UK and Ireland Blue Shield Organisation
International Council of Museums (ICOM)
International Council of Museums UK National Committee (ICOM UK)
UNESCO Archives Portal
UNESCO Information Service
UNESCO Libraries Portal
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
World Bank
World Bank (culture)

Case Studies

In the future we will be using international issues as a pilot for intelligence gathering and dissemination of information through our website. An important area for this new tool will be the gathering of case studies demonstrating good practice in international collaboration.

The following are three case studies on international collaboration were given as PowerPoint presentations at our Global Perspectives conference in January. We will be adding to these gradually as the implementation of our strategy progresses. In the meantime if you are involved in an international project which you would be willing for us to present on the site please contact Henrietta Hopkins Senior Policy Adviser (International) at MLA.

Towards a New Age of Partnership (TANAP)format: ppt: A Dutch - Asian - South African Heritage Project described by Dr Pieter Koenders of the National Archives in the Netherlands, the project co-ordinators.

An explanation of the Programme for Museum Development in Africa (PMDA)format: ppt by Margaret Greeves of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Margaret attended PMDA's planning and review meeting in Mombasa in August 2002 on behalf of the UK Branch of the International Council of Museums (ICOM UK).

Book Aid International and Its Partnershipsformat: ppt illustrated with examples from Nigeria and Kenya by Nelly Temu Williams their Principal Librarian.

For further information on any of MLA's work in the international arena please contact Laura Lang via

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