Eve Haddow examines a woven mat from Tongoa island, Vanuatu. The mat was collected by Reverend Adam Wilson, an early 20th century Scottish Presbyterian missionary

Supporting the study of Pacific collections

Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund case study

National Museums Scotland, Perth Museums and Art Gallery, the University of Aberdeen Museums, and Glasgow Life.

Funding round: 

Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, round three.


A partnership project, Pacific Collections in Scottish Museums – unlocking their knowledge and potential, which was awarded £58,471 in round three of the fund to create new national resources to provide information on, and support the study of, Pacific collections.

Project director:

Jilly Burns, head of national and international partnerships at National Museums Scotland.

About the project:

For the last 18 months a partnership project between National Museums Scotland, Perth Museums and Art Gallery, the University of Aberdeen Museums and Glasgow Life has been supporting a review of collections from the Pacific region held in museums and galleries across Scotland.

This was a pilot project that aimed to review Scottish holdings as well as provide a mechanism for knowledge transfer between current specialists and museum professionals without prior experience and knowledge of Pacific collections.  

The innovative approach taken in this project was the employment of a new curator to undertake the review rather than using a current specialist. This approach was intended as a new spin on tackling the succession planning issue of declining subject specialist curators in the UK.

The project’s outputs, which include a published Review of Pacific Collections in Scottish Museums produced by the project’s curator, Eve Haddow, are evidence of just one of the outcomes from this approach to developing subject specialist knowledge transfer.

Not only did Haddow complete the review herself based on her acquired knowledge through the period, she also produced an Introduction to Pacific Collections guidance document for future ‘new’ curators to guide them through developing their knowledge of the collections, just as she did.  

The findings from the review have already sparked keen interest from academics and others in the field, who appreciate the model of information provided by Collection Level Descriptions. This approach not only opens up more detail on individual museum holdings, but also reflects on regional spread via the cross-review of collections, undertaken by Haddow.  

It already looks like the legacy of this modest project will be considerable in terms of opening up wider engagement with the collections in terms of further research, and its associated outputs, exhibitions, digital information or otherwise.

Probably the most important thing has been the wider sector’s engagement with the project and the appetite in the Scottish sector for further similar initiatives to be undertaken.

Discussion at the project’s launch suggested that future collaborative reviews and similar models for knowledge retention would be welcome in Scotland, and be seen as excellent means to further the ambitions for the National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries.