Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund - Museums Association

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Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund

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 over £11m to 162 projects since it launched in 2011. In 2021 we ran two rounds of funding. In response to changing needs from museums during the pandemic, we offered grants for two purposes, both up to £90k over around two years.

The funding we offer

We’re making changes to the Collections Fund in 2021 to support some of the varied and challenging situations of different museums across the UK, and to help museums think about recovering together with their communities through collections engagement.

This year we will offer two funding streams for collections engagement, both offering grants of up to £90,000 over around two years. Expression of interest deadlines are 26 April for grant awards in July and 13 September for awards in December, following a two-stage process. In total £1.3m will be awarded, anticipated to be across 7 to 10 projects in each funding round.

All applicants will meet a set of essential requirements relating to using existing collections to engage audiences. You can then apply to:

  • Test new, ambitious, creative collections engagement that has a social impact. These grants are for museums to innovate or kick-start practice where there is a strong link between a relevant collection and audience (much like our Collections Innovation and Engagement grants in 2020); or
  • Use experience of participatory practice to develop new models of collections engagement with communities living with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Applicants for these grants will demonstrate that they operate at a ‘best practice’ level or higher in the MA’s participatory practice framework and are therefore in a position to develop replicable ways of working with communities as we all live with the impacts of the pandemic. These projects will fit in with the strategic aims of the organisation and be developmental as models for the sector.

To apply, please read the guidance for applicants download below before completing the expression of interest form.


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

Case studies

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