Selection of s dresses from the Designated dress and textile collection at Lotherton Hall in Leeds

ACE relaunches Designation scheme

Rebecca Atkinson, 15.04.2015
Accreditation is no longer an eligibility criteria
Arts Council England (ACE) has relaunched the Designation scheme following an 18-month review.

The scheme, which recognised pre-eminent collections held in non-national museums in England, was closed to new entrants in spring 2013 with four museum collections taking part in a pilot programme and awarded Designation status at the end of last year.

It has now fully reopened with a new two-stage application process and revised assessment processes. One of the key changes is that Accreditation is no longer an eligibility criteria, although a spokeswoman for the arts council said it was still an important standard for museums looking to develop their collections.

Previous criteria about "collections management arrangements" and "services to the public" have been removed from the scheme.

Organisations will now be asked to demonstrate that the collection is already an essential research collection or that it has potential to be considered so in the future.

The arts council has previously said it was keen to move away from the perception that Designation is a “quasi-standard” similar to the Accreditation scheme, and instead focus on its founding principles of “quality and national significance”.

According to an independent survey commissioned as part of ACE's review of Designation, 75% of respondents viewed the scheme favourably, and most said its original principles continue to hold true: encouraging the safeguarding of a collection, raising its profile and, where possible, directing funding in support of it.

Stella Butler, the university librarian and keeper of the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds, has been appointed as the chairwoman of the Designation panel. ACE is looking to recruit four new members to panel, which meets twice a year to consider applications for Designated status.

Scott Furlong, the director of ACE’s acquisitions, exports, loans and collections unit, said:  “At the arts council we are passionate about collections and the way they enrich our lives. The Designation scheme is a visible assertion of our belief in their enduring value.

“The scheme enables us to identify, celebrate and encourage the safeguarding of  these extraordinary collections at a time when this seems more important than ever so that they can continue to develop and act as a source of inspiration and enjoyment for current and future generations.”

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.

Update

This article was updated to include futher details of how the scheme has been revised.

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