Report into Parliamentary Art Collections presented at Westminster

’Our Parliamentary Art Collection’ explores the visual representations of power and democracy and highlights issues of access and inclusion for both artists and audiences across different regions

Dr Saskia Warren, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, presented the findings of her report ’Our Parliamentary Art Collection: New Directions for Audiences, Interpretation, and Social Justice ’ to The Lords Panel and Commons Committee at UK Parliament on 18 October 2023.

’Our Parliamentary Art Collection’ investigates audience engagement and interpretation in the Palaces of Westminster and Parliamentary Art Collection, UK Parliament (comprising 10,000 items). For this project, Dr Warren collaborated with the Heritage Collections Team as part of a Parliamentary Research Fellowship, supported by an ESRC IAA grant.

The project brings together insights from different perspectives to inform interpretation techniques, issues of display, and event programming to reflect on the role of the Parliamentary Art Collection in the UK and internationally in relation to the public in the 21st century.

Attending to critical, timely questions of social inequality and justice in relation to collections and issues of display, ’Our Parliamentary Art Collection’ explores how stories are told about art works, who visits, and processes of meaning-making. The cross-national Parliamentary study also explored how other institutions are engaging with concerns relating to equality, diversity and social justice in their interpretation, collections, and audience development.

Through interviews, focus groups, walking tours and workshops, Dr Warren with the Heritage Collections Team, brought together new voices and ideas for interpretation and engagement within a heritage-listed space including exploring issues of equality, diversity and inclusion.

My Post Fellowship in the Heritage Team, UK Parliament spanned two monarchs, and three prime ministers. It was a fascinating time to understand the different structures, spaces, and teams within UK Parliament, and the sensitive work being undertaken by the Heritage Team in relation to the Parliamentary Art Collection and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

The Fellowship with Heritage Collections follows on from Dr Warren’s Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellowship (2017 - 2021), where she led on a programme of research, Geographies of Muslim Women and the UK Cultural and Creative Economy (’CreativeMuslimWomenUK’). Continuing an investigation into the representation, voices and practices of women, minority ethnic, and religious groups within art, heritage, and policy-making, ’Our Parliamentary Art Collection’ builds upon key moments in the social history of UK Parliament such as the women’s suffrage movement and Race Relations Acts (1965, 1968, 1976) that have been shaped by women and minority ethnic groups, and which continue to impact lives today.

It is anticipated that the research project may bring about changes in interpretation and engagement practices across twelve different countries, through their parliamentary art collections, including addressing issues of access and inclusion for both artists and audiences.

To receive a copy of the ’Our Parliamentary Art Collection’ report, please