Engaging with collections at the Lapworth Museum of Geology in Birmingham. Photograph by Marc Atkins

Curators gain support for collections research

Simon Stephens, 12.03.2019
Headley Fellowships with Art Fund announces first grant recipients
Seven curators are to benefit from a programme that will support their work researching collections, it was announced last week.

The Headley Fellowships with Art Fund is designed to help curators take time away from their day-to-day responsibilities to carry out in-depth research into their museum’s collection. The curators will share £200,000 and some of the money will be used to backfill their posts, either full-time for six months or part-time for a year.

The scheme responds to a 2017 Art Fund report, The 21st-Century Curator, that found almost three-quarters of museum curators spend 15% or less of their time on collections research.

It also linked to the ongoing decline in public spending on museums and galleries in England, which has fallen 13% in real terms over the past decade. According to a 2018 Museums Association study, 34% of local authority museums reduced the number of full-time staff they employed in the year preceding. 

The seven curators and their projects are:

  • Joanne Anderson, assistant keeper of archaeology, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle (researching the museum’s collection of Native North American art) 
  • Subhadra Das, curator, UCL Culture, London (decolonising university science collections) 
  • Dan Hicks, curator of archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (researching the untold colonial histories in the Pitt Rivers collection)
  • Karen Logan, curator of history, Ulster Museum, Belfast (curating the Troubles and community history in Northern Ireland)
  • Margaret Maitland, senior curator, ancient Mediterranean, National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (researching and celebrating Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind and his contributions to Egyptology) 
  • Bryan Sitch, deputy head of collections, Manchester Museum (creating a new gallery of Chinese culture)
  • Adam Smith, curator of natural sciences, Nottingham City Council (researching and displaying the museum’s nationally significant herbarium collection).

The Headley Fellowships with Art Fund will provide £600,000 over the next three years to UK curators to realise ideas for engaging audiences, as well as to broker new relationships and share knowledge with museums and peers across the country.

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