All of the student study areas, offices and other facilities of the Research Unit are housed within the Sainsbury Centre building, directly adjacent to the galleries displaying the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, which is a rich resource for teaching and research. It contains over fourteen hundred works of art, around four hundred of which are from the three areas covered by the SRU, many of them of exceptional quality and rarity. This proximity makes seeing and engaging with the Sainsbury collection part of the everyday experience of the Unit, for instance, as part of their course, MA students prepare presentations based on objects on display in the Sainsbury Centre. The design of the displays at once highlight formal qualities and aesthetic relationships between different cultures, while downplaying traditional concerns of period, region or key artists.
The SRU also has its own Teaching Collection of nearly five hundred objects, managed by the Robert Sainsbury Library which are freely accessible for study, teaching and research. The items come from all three areas, but over half are Pacific objects, including some deriving from the collections of the Melanesian Missionary Society, donated to the SRU in 1991.
A recent acquisition was 20 objects from the Kalahari region of Southern Africa, passed to the unit from UEA’s School of International Development. The Library has produced a searchable Database of the Collection, which was created as part of a project to catalogue and provide access to the objects, funded by a UEA Teaching Fellowship award. The database also includes the SCVA owned Paget and Wellcome collections of objects from Papua New Guinea and the Americas respectively.
A selection of objects from the Teaching Collection are exhibited in the Robert Sainsbury Library display cabinet.
Collaborative relations with other museums, both regional, national and international are well established as a result of past academic research projects, exhibitions and the growing network of SRU graduates working in that sector. Particularly strong connections exist with the British Museum, the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and the Musee du Quai Branly, Paris. These connections and the regular visits arranged by the SRU to such institutions increases the range of collections available for study and research.