Yorkshire Museum is one of the arts council's Designated collections

Arts council proposes Designation change

Simon Stephens, 04.12.2013
Scheme that recognises pre-eminent collections to be refocused
The arts council is seeking views on its plan to refocus the Designation Scheme, which recognises pre-eminent collections held in non-national museums in England.

The plan is to relaunch the scheme, which was put on hold during the summer, in spring next year. The move follows a review of Designation among stakeholders in October.

The review found that the scheme overlapped with Accreditation, which sets nationally agreed standards for museums.

Respondents wanted Designation to refocus on the quality of collections. They also wanted the scheme to have a higher profile and for there to be more financial support for holders of designated collections.

The Arts Council England proposal document states: “In order to develop the Designation Scheme, we need to be clear that Designation is not a standard. It is a mark of distinction. It is an informed judgement about the coherence, richness and depth of a collection and its contemporary relevance.

"We want to refocus Designation so that it is clear that the award is about the national quality and significance of specific collections which are vital to England’s cultural heritage.”

The arts council says that the process should not include an assessment of the performance of the holding organisation, which is what Accreditation does.

The arts council proposal also says that it does not intend to review all the collections within the scheme. But changes of governance or questions about collections development  may lead to a review of the original award. It also might review awards that are classed as “all holdings” to clarify the extent of the Designated collection.

Designation was created in 1997 and was extended in 2005 to include non-national archives and libraries. The arts council has been responsible for Designation since 2011 following the abolition of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Museum and galleries wishing to comment on the arts council's proposals should email designation@artscouncil.org.uk by 31 December.