Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund

£3.5m over three years for projects to develop collections and connect them with people


The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, run by the Museums Association (MA), funds a range of projects that demonstrate the significance, distinctiveness and power of collections to people.

We currently award nearly £1.2m per year to around 10-16 projects, so we choose projects carefully, looking for where our support might have the most impact in the context of our grant criteria. Since the fund began in 2011, 101 projects have been awarded grants totalling nearly £7.9m.

We also run Collections Network events and produce learning resources for the whole sector.



Museums, galleries and partnerships from across the UK can request sums of between £20,000-£120,000 for projects lasting up to three years. There are two application rounds each year in March and September, with a short initial application form. The process from initial application to being awarded funds takes around four months.

We have recently updated the criteria and guidance for the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to support applications that - in meeting our grant criteria - have a strong link between relevant collections and audiences; are able to use the project to contribute to the long-term plans of the organisation(s); and are ambitious, interesting and sometimes exploratory.

Staff at the MA are available to advise on applications. We recommend speaking to Sally Colvin or Sarah Briggs prior to making an application.

The deadline for the current grant round is 5pm on 11 September 2019.

Essential requirements

To be considered, applications must both:

  • work with an existing collection or collections to improve understanding of them and increase their use; and
  • through that collections work, involve, inspire and have value for people, communities and audiences.

Criteria for success

Applications are assessed for:

  1. the potential of the collection to inspire and interest your audiences, and the coherence of your plans to enhance its understanding and use
  2. the approach to engage and involve local communities, communities of interest, or other audiences in the collection, and the sense of how this will enhance the lives of those taking part
  3. the beneficial impact on your organisation and individuals within it, and, where appropriate, how the project benefits partner museums, the wider museum sector, or partners from other sectors
  4. the project's feasibility and value for money
  5. the longer-term legacy of the work and the strength of your plans to make it sustainable.

Application forms and guidance





Sally Colvin: sally@museumsassociation.org, 020 7566 7851

Sarah Briggs: sarah@museumsassociation.org, 0114 245 0001