Category: Collecting

Art Fund New Collecting Awards Now Open

This funding programme enables promising and ambitious curators to build critical professional skills by pursuing new avenues of collecting for their museums.

Applications for the fourth round of the scheme are now open.

The deadline to submit an expression of interest is 13 February 2018. Shortlisted applicants will then be invited to present to the New Collecting Awards panel in late April 2018.


Through the New Collecting Awards programme we aim to support the next generation of curatorial leaders across the UK. The awards promote the value of research-led collecting and foster curatorial expertise at both individual and institutional levels, enriching museum practice long-term.

Offering 100% funding for focused collecting projects of the highest quality, the scheme enables curators to expand museum collections of fine art, design or visual culture into exciting new areas, or to deepen existing holdings in imaginative ways.

Each awardee also receives a generous funding allocation towards research, travel and training costs to facilitate their proposed collecting plans and professional development. Additionally, they are offered the ongoing support of a mentor, Art Fund staff and our trustees.

Who can apply?

We welcome applications from curators who are either in the early stages of their career or have had limited opportunities to collect.

We expect applicants to be in full- or part-time employment at a fully or provisionally accredited museum or gallery. We will also consider applications from freelance curators or researchers, provided they can demonstrate that they will be officially affiliated with an accredited museum or gallery for the duration of the project and that their participation will have a longer-term institutional impact.

Applicants will be expected to demonstrate why receiving a New Collecting Award would benefit not only their museum and its collections but also, crucially, their own professional development in a way that would not otherwise be possible.

How much can you apply for?

Typical grant awards fall between £50,000 and £80,000. Curators can apply for any amount but will be expected to demonstrate that the sum is reasonable and proportionate in relation to the types and number of works they propose to collect.

With generous support from the KMF Maxwell Stuart Charitable Trust, one award will be ringfenced for a curator working with a collection in a museum or gallery in Scotland.

The allocation for professional development is ringfenced at 10% of the total sum awarded.

Please note that we retain the right to award a reduced grant for either planned acquisitions or professional development at our own discretion.

Find out how to apply and read about the previous winners.

The New Collecting Awards are made possible by a number of generous individuals and trusts including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Ruddock Foundation of the Arts, the Headley Trust and the Vivmar Foundation.

Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund Now Open

First round application deadline is 6th December

Initial applications to the 14th round of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, which helps museums develop collections to achieve social impact, will be accepted by the Museums Association (MA) until the deadline of 6 September.

This round will see £600,000 of grants available for applications for funding from £20,000 to £120,000, for projects that will last up to three years.

In the first instance, applicants should call or email to discuss their idea with Sally Colvin, the MA’s programmes manager, or Sarah Briggs, the MA’s collections development officer.

Initial applications will be shortlisted by the end of September and informed whether or not they can proceed to a full application, which must be completed by 18 October. The successful applicants will be announced in early December.

Art Fund research on the impact of collecting – share your experience

Do you manage a museum collection? To mark 40 years of partnership, The Wolfson Foundation and Art Fund are commissioning new research into the current state of collecting in UK museums. The findings will be published later this year in a report called Why Collect Now? A report on the impact of museum collecting in Britain, authored by Sir David Cannadine. The report aims to bring new thinking to the subject of museum collecting, and may help museums articulate how and why they build their collections.

The Art Fund is inviting colleagues from museums from around the country to share your valuable knowledge and experience of managing collections by taking part in a survey, developed by BOP Consulting, to feed into the report. It should take about 15-20 minutes to complete and can be accessed via

Thank you in advance for completing the survey by 25 July 2017.

Please note any information provided will be used in aggregate form only, or anonymised. The survey includes a question on the proportion of your organisation’s annual budget allocated to acquisitions, as well as your organisation’s collecting habits over the past 10 years. Where it’s not possible to provide precise numbers, please give your best estimate.  Please do pass this on to a colleague with responsibility for the collection if you don’t think you’ll be able to provide this information.

For more information contact Penny Bull, Senior Programmes Manager at Art Fund, via, 020 7225 4840.

Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund – deadline approaching

£3.5 M Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund
Deadline: 15th March 2017

The next deadline for applications to the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund is 5pm on 15th March 2017.

The fund is run by the Museums Association which awards grants of between £20,000 and £120,000 to support projects which develop collections to achieve social impact. 

Further information can be found on the Museums Association website.

Objects Available – Museum of Childhood

As part of the on-going major review of the National Trust Museum of Childhood’s collection, the National Trust have identified and assessed a large number of objects as being ‘irrelevant’ to the museum’s collection. These include adult costume, household items, furniture and many other miscellaneous items.

Click here to see the list: objects-available-nov-2016

 If an object has a ‘CMS’ number it can be used to search on

A few costume items do not have numbers and say ‘not on CMS’. This means they’re not on the online catalogue but Sue Fraser can provide images of the item. Some objects have already been selected (highlighted in yellow – these may possibly still be available).

If anything appeals to you for your collections, please contact Sue Fraser (Collections Assistant) on

Art Fund New Collecting Awards

Applications for the third round of the Art Fund’s New Collecting Awards are now being accepted.

By offering 100% of the funding required for collecting projects of the highest quality, the scheme enables curators to expand museum collections of fine art, design or visual culture into exciting new areas, or deepen existing holdings in imaginative ways. Each awardee also receives a generous funding allocation towards research, travel and training costs, and the ongoing support of a dedicated mentor. 

Over the last two years 11 curators have received a New Collecting Award, for acquisition projects ranging from Soviet numismatic material to light-based art. Prospective applicants may wish to note that the majority of previous awards have been for modern and contemporary holdings, and whilst we welcome further applications in these areas, we are also keen to encourage curators with an interest in historic collections to apply.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday 7th December. Please see here for further information on aims, eligibility and how to apply, and here for details of round one and two awardees and mentors.

Thematic Collecting at Manchester Museum: a Blog Post for Museum Development North West

Manchester Museum launched its thematic collecting project at the end of 2014. The aim of this approach is to re-invigorate collecting. The impetus for the project came from a number of papers by Manchester Museum Director, Nick Merriman, who highlighted the fact that collecting is, increasingly, seen as either unaffordable or an indulgence. However, collecting is a core function of museums and if those who work in museums stop acquiring objects, what kind of legacy will we bequeath to our successors? The challenge is how do we make the case for continuing collecting at a time when some museums are struggling because of cut-backs, and when there is considerable uncertainty about future funding because of the result of the EU referendum?

Of course, no-one is arguing for a continuation of the large-scale collecting that went on during the 19th and 20th centuries. Few museums have the capacity to collect the way they once did. Manchester Museum is a case in point. Founded as an encyclopaedic museum in the 1860s, its collections cover all disciplines from Archery to Zoology. Adding material across the board to already crowded stores is clearly not an option.

Rationalisation of collections is only part of the answer. Museums should still collect but they should do so in a more discerning manner, by focusing on specific themes. Coin collectors don’t try to collect an example of every coin ever minted but focus on one particular aspect such as coins of a particular country, of a period in history or with a particular design. For example, one collector I met limited himself to depictions of hand-shakes on coins! At Manchester Museum we decided to concentrate on the themes of migration and water. These are both very topical and relevant to us given that the mission of the Museum is to promote understanding between cultures, and to work towards a sustainable world. Of course, it is up to each institution to decide which particular themes are most relevant to them, but these two seemed to offer the greatest prospect for all disciplines represented in the Museum’s collections to contribute to the project.

In the initial phase of the team members (who hadn’t previously done this kind of work) were trained to film interviews, edit and post films on the internet. The equipment needed to do this is within the price range of most budgets. Thanks to advances in digital technology, work that just a few years ago required an editing studio can now be completed on a laptop. The first trial interview was a trip to Manchester’s Christmas market where curators collected specimens from stalls run by visiting Dutch traders. They filmed an interview about the seasonal trade in minerals and bulbs as a way of exploring different perspectives about migration. Since then over sixty short films have been filmed and posted on the internet and all are accessible via the Museum’s thematic collecting blog.

For our thematic collecting project we have interviewed museum staff and specialist researchers, wardens on nature reserves, a tourist visiting lava flows in Iceland, a poet, and members of the general public. One of the great advantages of this approach is its topicality, flexibility and the speed with which curators can respond to an event or an activity. Recently I visited the Ribchester Roman fort excavation and interviewed the director about the Spanish and Hungarian soldiers who formed the garrison some 1800 years ago. This provided an historical and archaeological backdrop (and just possibly a little bit of perspective) to debate about immigration into the UK that was an issue during the Referendum on the country’s membership of the EU.

At the end of the first full year of the project we wish to evaluate the work we have done. One question concerns who it is we are trying to engage with thematic collecting interviews. Clearly the museum benefits by recording the context of acquisitions. How often have we as museum curators regretted the fact that so often with old collections the circumstances of acquisition, not to mention the motivations of the curator and the donor, remain opaque.

At a symposium on Contemporary Collecting at the London Transport Museum in March 2016 one of the questions that was asked was what it was that museums were not collecting that might leave a gap in the future? One of the speakers, Jen Kavanagh, had collected examples of tattooing equipment not represented in the collection and interviewed some of the artists on film to create a record of the context of acquisition. This is a wonderful example of a thematic collecting approach, which seems to offer a flexible and effective means of contemporary collecting. It also provides a way of opening up debate on important social issues by exploring them from the varied perspectives of a wide range of people, thereby showing the relevance of the Museum as a civic institution in the service of the community.

In the next phase of the project we intend to film more interviews about the topic of water and talk to a wider range of people. The work of taking the message out to symposiums, conferences and other venues is in its early stages but we would welcome opportunities to raise the profile of Manchester Museum’s thematic collecting project in the current debate about contemporary collecting. With this aim in mind we will organise a conference on the subject at Manchester Museum next year. Watch this space for more details.

Bryan Sitch,
Deputy Head of Collections,
Manchester Museum
31st June 2016


1. Excavation at Ribchester Roman fort
2. Interviewing Mark Champion, Warden of Wigan Flashes nature reserve
3. Interviewing a market trader about semi-precious stones
4. A taxidermy specimen of a swallow and nest from the Zoology collections makes a talking point for the theme of migration