Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund - Museums Association

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Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund

£600,000 awarded for museums kick-starting, scaling up and evaluating innovations

In 2021 we were delighted to announce 14 awardees of the Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund in collaboration with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

£600,000 was awarded across the museums throughout the UK to help them kick-start, scale up and evaluate the innovations they so adeptly designed through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has been an extraordinary period, one which has had, and will continue to have, significant long-term impacts on how museums function, their communities and their role in society.

UKRI commissioned creative design agency The Liminal Space to research and analyse the impact of global drivers (Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and climate change) and changes in society on the values and behaviours of the Museum of the Future. The report, Mindsets for the Museum of the Future, was published in November 2020.

In setting out a vision for The Museum of the Future we propose Five Mindsets that museums could to embrace in order to stay relevant, innovative and meaningful for future audiences and generations: Plural Perspectives, Nomadic and Accessible, Community Connection, Meaningful Experience and Alive & Responsive.

The Liminal Space

The shifting habits of museum communities has provided a catalyst for change in the sector not seen since World War Two. We are excited to support museums on this journey of change as they creatively explore and innovate for their communities of the future.

Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, said: “The Digital Innovation and Engagement grants were a timely opportunity for museums to build on their creativity in engaging their communities during lockdown and to develop their skills in the digital space.

“The 14 grants awarded represent the best of a very competitive funding round and range from innovative co-curated online tours to explore decolonial narratives, to creative online forums for care-leavers.

“Working with UKRI-AHRC has helped us develop a ground-breaking funding stream that will support museums to build on the new ways of working that have evolved in the pandemic and we look forward to continuing this partnership.”

The recipients

Birmingham Museums Trust, Birmingham

Birmingham Museum Trust will run a six-month project addressing industrialisation, colonialism and racial equality. Produced with and for Birmingham’s communities, the project will involve underrepresented communities local to Aston Hall to ensure that Birmingham Museum Trust’s digital offerings are more inclusive and multidirectional.

Brent Council, Brent

Running over 12 months Brent Council’s Harlesden Trailblazers project will produce a digital trail using QR codes celebrating the contributions of Black, African and African-Caribbean communities to Brent. The project will be co-produced with local community participants, who will be recruited through links with partner organisations.

Durham University, County Durham

Durham University’s “Street Museum” is a six-month project to transform the streets of low engagement neighbourhoods in Durham into museums. The aim is to produce a fully collaborative, co-curated outdoor exhibition across County Durham.

The Foundling Museum, London

The Foundling Museum will develop a creative portal for care-experienced people. The museum will build and moderate a private online forum connecting care experienced people of all ages across the country, with a particular emphasis in 18-30 age group. Films, podcasts and artists’ virtual workshops will encourage individuals to process and express their own experiences and thoughts creatively, whilst public-facing content will surface issues affecting this marginalised audience.

The Great North Museum, Newcastle

The Great North Museum has received funding to continue their Story:Web project. The aim of Story:Web is to dismantle the museum as a place-based repository and rebuild it as a co-curated big data resource, accessed and experienced globally.

Hastings Contemporary Museum, Hastings

Hastings Contemporary will expand their telepresence robots project. Since 2020, the telepresence robots have been roaming the halls of the museum and livestreaming their view of Hasting Contemporary’s collections to marginalised audiences. The funding will enable the team to evaluate how telepresence robot interactions can build new audiences, provide access to exhibitions, and build connections between people.

Horniman Museum and Gardens, London

Horniman Museum and Gardens will open African collections to under-represented communities to enable people to use the collections to inspire research and debate. The project will include virtual collections, an online community collections research hub and two digital toolkits, written by community participants.

Manchester Museum, Manchester

Manchester Museum will launch a 12-month project supporting neurodiverse children and young adults to curate new digital content for the museum. The project is aimed at creating access and agency for neurodiverse young people experiencing Manchester Museum’s ancient Egypt collections.

National Football Museum, Manchester

The National Football Museum will work with team of community producers to co-create a podcast to improve women’s representation in football culture. This six-episode podcast series will be made by and for local young women and will provide comprehensive training in research, script writing, recording and editing.

National Videogame Museum, Sheffield

The National Videogame Museum will recruit an artist-in-residence and community curator who will work with 40 local black and Asian residents to explore, document and share experiences and feelings about identity and representation. They will translate these lived experiences and diverse identities into a videogame and videogame assets that will join the NVM permanent collection.

The Novium Museum, Chichester

The Novium Museum will expand their ‘virtual field trips’ which bring high quality museum learning into the classroom for children experiencing increased disadvantage as a result of Covid-19. The investment will enable them to offer virtual field trips to an early years and key stage one audience and expand the curriculum subjects covered by the field trips.

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum will reveal new stories about decolonial practice by repurposing a 360° museum tour by embedding co-created interactive content. This will allow users to break down and understand how coloniality works in museum cases and offer tours on particular themes such as: colonial legacies, problematic language and labelling and non-binary voices.

Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust, Anstruther

Using the power of digital connection, the Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust will reveal the stories caught within their photographic archive. This 12-month project will crowd-source information and data to produce a newly digitised nationally-significant photographic archive.

University of Bristol Theatre Collection, Bristol

The University of Bristol has received funding to create a series of mixed-reality activities over using museum collections to enable young people from underrepresented communities to explore the hidden histories and creative processes of Britain’s oldest theatre. They will use a pioneering mix of 2D digital facsimiles, 3D printed physical objects and augmented reality to creatively explore behind-the-scenes theatre activities to bring the process of making theatre to life.

Learning from applications

To find out more about what we learnt during the call for applications for the fund, read our learning from applications report.