Distributed National Collections

The concept of a distributed national collection was identified over 10 years ago. It may be defined as:

" the objects and records that provide the evidence of the history of the people of Wales. The collections that tell the story of Wales are kept across the nation by a diverse range of organisations. Museums, libraries and archives from across Wales hold items of cultural significance that combine to tell the story of Wales.

There is a distinction between collections which are nationally significant within themselves and those which combine to form our national collection. Objects and documents that tell the story of ordinary people and daily life may not individually appear to be that significant yet collectively they have a unique value and a vital contribution to make to understanding and sharing our heritage.

The concept of the distributed national collection allows for shared responsibility for our heritage. Institutions across Wales should co-ordinate the collection, display, research, storage and disposal of collections to ensure the greatest access to collections with efficient targeting of resources. This strategy represents a move away from the location of collections to a focus on how they are used and cared for.

The concept of the distributed National collection was first identified within the 2000 Libraries and Information Services Wales (Lisc Wales) report The Future of Our Recorded Past and has been subsequently identified through research in archaeological collections in the 2003 report What’s in Store commissioned by the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, the Council of Museums in Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. The adoption of the concept of the distributed National Collection within the 2010 Museum Strategy produced by CyMAL for the Welsh Assembly Government and endorsed by museums across Wales demonstrated the willingness of institutions in Wales to lead the world in managing collections across administrative divisions. In their interpretation plan for heritage in Wales, Cadw have also identified interpretative themes as a way to co-ordinate a coherent approach to interpretation. This project extends the concept to developing themes within Welsh collections.

To develop the concept of the distributed national collection resources should be targeted at themes of relevance to Wales. Work to identify collections with important themes for Wales has already begun with the use of Welsh dolls to understand national costume, collecting contemporary Wales and using archaeology to understand Wales’ early history. Other themes such as the place of Wales in the world can be explored using ethnographic collections. Collections addressing a wide range of topics could be identified, studied, conserved, documented and made available through physical and virtual exhibition. Through this process information can be discovered and shared, omissions within collections identified and areas of overlap addressed with informed collecting and disposal."

The Contemporary Collecting Project Wales and the Linking Natural Sciences Collections Project both explore the concept of the distributed national collection.


Below is a working list of identifying features of a DNC project




Involves collections review that begins to identify what items (in a specific collections category) exist in Welsh museums and where they are held. May include collections with significance to the culture and heritage of Wales not held in Wales

Provides educational resources for a range of users and   considers the specifics of the curriculum in Wales

Considers current and potential future use of collections.

Coordinates shared resources for museum activities

Facilitates improvements in collections management including conservation, collections care and documentation prioritised by collection and user need.

Provides shared public output

Considers and records significance of collections using the Significance template.

Provides information digitally (Peoples Collection)

Conducts research to increase the body of knowledge

Provides educational resources for a range of users

Standardises terminology.

Allows searching using multiple terminology considering the technical and the vernacular

Generates listing of Welsh English translations for technical or specialist terms relating to the collection

Agreed Welsh English translations for technical or specialist terms relating to the collection

Collates and gathers knowledge and information relevant to collections