Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund

Fund will provide more than £3.75m to projects that bring collections closer to people

The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund supports a range of projects that bring collections closer to people. 

We award the fund on behalf of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to projects that demonstrate the significance, distinctiveness and power of collections to people.

The fund has awarded £9.1m to 113 projects since it launched in 2011. Recent projects include Multaka-Oxford at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum in Oxford, which creates volunteering opportunities for forced migrants to work with collections. The initiative recently won the Collections Trust Award 2019. 

Following the recommendations in the Empowering Collections report, the fund will award more than £3.75m to projects around the UK dedicated to making their collections more empowering, relevant and dynamic to people. 

We have separated our funding into two types of grant. Both grants follow a two-stage application process: 

Collections innovation and engagement grants 

These grants of up to £90k over two years are available for outstanding ideas that make a strong link between the collection, the people you want to work with, and the activities and context of your organisation. 
This type of funding is similar to the grants we offered previously, but with a tighter focus on projects with a strong level of ambition, social impact, innovation or risk-taking. 

How to apply:
We accept expressions of interest twice a year in March and September. In each round, a shortlist of projects will then be invited to make a full application within 8 weeks.

Our selection committee will make a decision within 4-6 weeks. 

Key dates: 

The next deadline for applications is 16 March 2020

  • Shortlisted applicants will be invited to submit a full application in May 
  • Decisions will be made by our selection committee in July.
We strongly recommend you seek advice from staff at the MA before applying to ensure the project is a good fit.

Collections strategy and development grants 

Grants of up to £250k for projects running for five years or under will be awarded to initiatives that use collections work to support the established strategy of an organisation for longer term benefit. 

This type of grant aims to accelerate the development of museums that are ready to find new ways and do more to involve their audience and communities with collections. It’s designed to help organisations overcome some of the barriers of traditional project funding, and the MA will offer additional coaching where our skills and network can add benefit.

How to apply: 

Collections strategy and development grants are open for applications once a year. 

Before submitting an expression of interest, you will need to speak to a member of our team to discuss your project - this is because the process is more time consuming for applicants. Suitable projects will then be invited to submit expressions of interest in May 2020 (6-10 projects), so it is recommended that you speak to staff at the MA well before this deadline.

Key dates:  

  • January-April: speak to Sarah Briggs or Sally Colvin about your idea and obtain expression of interest form
  • May: submit expression of interest 
  • June: our selection committee will create a shortlist of projects
  • September: we will invite shortlisted projects to submit a full application, with the support of MA staff by September 
  • December: Decisions will be made by our selection committee 
More details can be found in the links below


Please contact Sally Colvin or Sarah Briggs for advice on eligibility for the fund and help to develop applications: 

Sally Colvin, Programmes Manager:, 020 7566 7851 

Sarah Briggs, Collections Development Officer:, 020 7566 7834