UNIVERSITIES wanting to strengthen community relations are recognising that museum collections can be valuable public assets.
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, which belongs to Glasgow University, is Scotland's oldest public museum. The university recently put the museum under its external relations and marketing division. Malcolm McLeod, museum director, said: "It sees us very much as a shop window for a whole range of the university's activities."
The university has made a name for itself worldwide through extensive overseas loans of collections as well as through the Hunterian's internet site. Closer to home, the museum hosts receptions and events.
University College London plans to gather departmental collections under one roof. It will make some material accessible to the public for the first time.
In addition to widening access, the high-tech centre will help raise public awareness of UCL, and will showcase UCL's "blue skies aspirational research", Lord Quirk, who is chairing the centre development committee, said.
Tristram Besterman, director of the Manchester University museum, said: "If you've had a good experience of your local university, perhaps through the only public face that it has, which is the museum, you are more likely to choose your local university."
The museum boasts prestigious archaeological, Egyptological and natural history collections. A biomedical research exhibition brought praise for research and raised the profile of the museum among academic deans, Mr Besterman said. "They can hold powerful sway over funding."