Tagged: Collections

Society for Museum Archaeology Guide for the Rationalisation of Museum Archaeology Collections 

Recent work by the Society for Museum Archaeology (SMA) in collaboration with Historic England (HE) has clearly demonstrated the pressures that museums with archaeological collections are facing in terms of diminishing storage space, staff reductions and loss of expertise. It is in this context that rationalisation (the application of agreed selection strategies to previously accessioned archaeological project archives, with the purpose of de-selecting parts of the collection) is being increasingly suggested as one way forward to help alleviate the archaeological archive storage problem and create storage space. Furthermore, the audits required by the rationalisation process are seen to be useful exercises in collections management since they increase knowledge of and access to collections. However, despite the potential value of rationalisation, little practical guidance exists for those wishing to carry it out and the overall efficacy of the process has never been fully assessed for archaeological material – until now.

The publication of SMA’s Guidance for the Rationalisation of Museum Archaeology Collections provides museum professionals with a series of practical considerations, written in straightforward language, as informed by the real world experiences of institutions.

Download the guidance document here.

Unique Partnership Opportunity: Touring highlights from The Courtauld Gallery’s Collection of Islamic Metalwork 

The Courtauld Gallery’s important collection of Islamic inlaid brass-ware contains some of the finest examples of this intricate and refined craft. Supported by the Art Fund, we are offering a fantastic opportunity to partner with The Courtauld and the Subject Specialist Network (SSN) for Islamic Art and Material Culture (hosted by Birmingham Museums).

Partner Institutions will be able to develop their own unique display and learning programme around these beautiful objects, with support from a range of experts. Highlights from this celebrated collection are available to tour to up to three host venue institutions in the UK between autumn 2019 and early 2021.

Don’t miss this opportunity to create a unique display and learning programme around The Courtauld Gallery’s world class collection. For more information visit: courtauld.ac.uk/metalwork-tour.

Applications close at 5.00pm on on Saturday 1 December 2018.

Collections 2030 Discussion Sessions

Tuesday 13th November, 3-5pm, Tullie House Museum (Carlisle)
Thursday 15th November, 3-5pm, Manchester Museum

Do you have strong opinions about how museums’ collections should be used? Do you want to have a say in the long-term future of our sector? Do you want an opportunity to network with peers, and discuss some of the key questions facing heritage today? Well, here’s your chance…

The Museums Association recently published Collections 2030, a discussion paper which seeks feedback on the current state of museum collections the UK, and how to make the most of them over the next decade. It’s really important that ALL museum stakeholders (staff, freelancers, volunteers etc. …) take part in this process in order provide a full understanding of the long-term purpose, use and management of this key resource.

In collaboration with MDNW, we have arranged two discussion sessions and are inviting anyone who wishes to attend, to come along and give us some feedback on this important document (which can be found here). The sessions will involve looking at the key research questions in the study and discussing them with colleagues and peers. We will then collate your feedback and submit this to the MA in response to the paper.

This is an excellent opportunity to record your views on the paper, and to make sure that your voice is heard!

Please contact Gabrielle Heffernan (North West MA Rep.) at gabrielle.heffernan@tulliehouse.org if you’d like to attend one of the sessions.

We look forward to seeing you there!

How to Run a Collections 2030 Discussion Session

The Museums Association (MA) has published guidance notes for museum professionals who are interested in running a discussion session on its major new research project, Collections 2030.

The UK-wide project seeks to identify how to make the most of museum collections over the course of the next decade. The MA has produced a discussion paper and a series of research questions and is seeking responses from across the museum sector.

Groups of museum professionals are invited to hold discussion sessions to look at the research, debate the questions and develop a collective response that can be submitted to the project.

For those interested in running a session, tips include incorporating the discussion into an existing forum, meeting or group; inviting people with a wide range of experiences and job roles to participate; ensuring everyone is familiar with the research questions in advance; and nominating a note-taker to record key points. The full guidance notes are available to download below.

The MA’s policy officer Alistair Brown said: “The response to Collections 2030 so far has been fantastic. Museums across the country are engaging with the Collections 2030 debate and really thinking about how we can make our collections empowering, relevant and dynamic.”

“The new guidance that we’re publishing today will help people to have those discussions with colleagues and provide responses the consultation. Everyone in the sector – no matter what their official role is – has a view on issues from disposal to decolonisation, so we’re looking for input and ideas from teams, departments, AMA support groups, Subject Specialist Networks, Emerging Professional Groups and more. This is a consultation for the whole sector, so we want to hear from you.”

For more information visit the MA’s website.

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.

Civilisations Festival

Register your interest with this exciting partnership between museums and galleries and the BBC

It is now nearly half a century since Kenneth Clark’s series Civilisation thrilled audiences with its authoritative interpretation of the glories of Western art. Inspired by that groundbreaking programme, the new series of Civilisations on BBC Two will introduce a new generation to the great masterworks of beauty, ingenuity and illumination created across the continents.

The Civilisations Festival will run alongside the series in Spring 2018. We are inviting museums, galleries and libraries to schedule events to spark debate, broaden understanding and share ideas about what is meant by the term civilisation.

The content of the events is up to your organisation. It could be a debate or a keynote speech, a performance or a hands-on workshop using an item from your collection as the starting point.

Branding will be supplied so that you can let your visitors know that the event is part of the Civilisations Festival. Curators and speakers could be invited as guests on the BBC’s programmes. In some cases, stations may decide to cover your event in an outside broadcast.

The festival runs from Friday 2 March to Friday 11 March. Register your organisation’s interest by emailing civilisations@bbc.co.uk.

Find out more at: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes.

Launch of Reference Collection Search Portal

From the University of York:

We are delighted to announce the launch of the ‘National Zooarchaeological Reference Resource’ (NZRR), a specimen-level search portal for vertebrate skeletal collections in the UK. If you’ve ever found yourself desperately emailing colleagues to find that elusive specimen of chamois, burbot, etc., then this may be the solution.

Funded by a grant from Historic England, the NZRR so far includes data from 10 university zooarchaeology labs, 5 museums, one charitable trust, one private collection, and Historic England’s own zooarchaeology lab. We are expecting to add several additional collections in the near future, and welcome further submissions.

The resource is hosted by the Archaeology Data Service and is now live here.

Please take a look, try out some queries, and let us know what you think. Comments on the search interface are particularly welcome: we’re still working on this and already have a list of improvements in the pipeline.

Larger and Working Objects Guidelines

Invitation for Contributions

The Association of British Transport and Engineering Museums (ABTEM) has appointed the International Railway Heritage Consultancy (IRHC) to work with them to produce new guidelines for museums and private collectors with larger and working objects. 

It is looking for contributors from the sector to support this Arts Council funded project. 

For further details please download the full invitation letter .

Unlocking the vault: making the most of scientific collections

Manchester Museum
Monday 26th & Tuesday 27th June

Science and natural history collections include objects, specimens, models and illustrations which  are a goldmine of useful information and inspiration. They are immensely popular with the public, but are often cared for by non-specialists who can perceive them as difficult to work with. There is a danger that these collections can be forgotten, underused and undervalued.

Join us for this one and a half day conference looking at the innovative ways in which collections are being used. Speakers from historic collections across Europe will be joining us to discuss best practise in the use of scientific and natural history collections. We will be exploring ways to connect people to collections for greatest impact. 

We have an interesting programme of talks from expert speakers in three sessions: ‘Connecting collections and breaking isolation’, ‘Reaching out to new audiences’ and ‘New meanings through art, history and research’. 

Dr. Tim Boon, Science Museum Group. Science Museum Group Research and the Interdisciplinary Culture of Collections’

Mark Carnall, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. ‘Not real, not worth it?’

Dr Caroline Cornish, Royal Holloway, University of London. ‘Useful or curious’? Reinventing Kew’s Museum of Economic Botany’

Jocelyn Dodd, University of Leicester.Encountering the Unexpected:  natural heritage collections & successful aging’

Prof. Dirk van Delft, Boerhaave Museum. ‘Real bones for teaching medicine

Dr. Martha Flemming, V&A Museum. Title TBC

Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven, The University of Manchester. ‘The manikin in taxidermy: modelling conceptions of nature’.

Henry McGhie, Manchester Museum. ‘Beyond ‘natural history’: museums for the 21st century’

Dr. Laurens de Rooy, Museum Vrolik, Medical and natural history collections as historical objects: a change of perspective?

Dr. Marjan Scharloo, Teylers Museum. Title TBC

Dr. Cornelia Weber, Coordination Centre for Scientific University Collections in Germany. ‘Back to the Roots: University Collections as Infrastructure for Research and Teaching

Prof. Yves Winkin, Musée des arts et métiers.  An amateur director, professional curators, and a desire for a cabinet of curiosities

To book a place please visit the Manchester Museum eventbrite page

The conference is part of the programming to support Object Lessons, our upcoming exhibition celebrating the scientific model and illustration collection of George Loudon. Each of these finely crafted objects was created for the purpose of understanding the natural world through education, demonstration and display. This exhibition combines Loudon’s collection with models from Manchester Museum and World Museum, Liverpool. The conference is generously supported by the Wellcome Collection.