Funding boost for four of Scotland’s university museums - Museums Association

Funding boost for four of Scotland’s university museums

Grants will help the museums respond to the challenges of Covid and focus on their audiences
Emergency Funding
Francesca Collins
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A young visitor to the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum, University of Dundee
A young visitor to the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum, University of Dundee © Alan Richardson

More than £150,000 has been awarded to five projects across four of Scotland’s university museums through Museums Galleries Scotland’s (MGS) Covid-19 Museum Development Fund.

The grants specifically target university and local authority museums, and were created to help museums build resilience and address the challenges brought about by Covid with a clear focus on their visitors, audiences and communities. They encompass the £100,000 additional funding announced by the Scottish government for university museums at the end of last year.

From enhancing virtual and participatory experiences of museums and collections, to supporting those living with health and social inequalities, the projects seek to improve museum experiences for their audiences, both in lockdown and beyond.

About the projects

University of Edinburgh Museums

The University of Edinburgh Museums will use this grant to develop their Community Connector: At Home with Heritage project, creating a database of heritage resources for health, a training programme to support the development of resources and activities, and a dedicated volunteer team who will work to support those living with health and social inequalities for whom digital access is not an option.

Partners in this project include the National Library of Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland, Age Scotland, the Thera Trust and the Social Prescribing Network.

In a second grant, the university will enhance their digital offering from St Cecilia’s Hall and Music Museum, enabling remote visitors to enjoy the same level of expert interpretation as physical visitors. This will include the creation of videos of specialists talking about and playing instruments from their collections, from a rich range of cultures.

Museums of the University of St Andrews

A grant to the Museums of the University of St Andrews will promote audience understanding of climate change, collaborating with the Scottish Oceans Institute to design and develop an exhibition and associated programming which will have a real impact on visitors’ behaviour.

Dive In! will launch in the university’s new Wardlaw Museum – the opening of which was due to take place just after lockdown – in the autumn and will coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference (Cop26) in Glasgow.

University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections

The University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections team will transform its digital activities, using new forms of engagement to embed 2D and 3D image-making, online events, and social media activity into an exploration of the ideas, wishes, preferences and needs of a wide range of stakeholders.

Working with partners, including One Stop Shop Aberdeen, Grampian Regional Equality Council and North East Sensory Services, as well as academic and international communities, the team will identify priorities for digital development, and use these to guide the creation and sharing of hundreds of new digital images of collections items, and other digital activities.

University of Dundee Museum Services

University of Dundee Museum Services will be working to develop their range of digital engagement. The service was widely praised for the digital activity it offered during the first lockdown and this grant will enable it to appoint a dedicated engagement officer for nine months. The post-holder will build on previous successes and increase the capacity of the service to develop more online (and potentially physical) programming, reaching new and wider audiences.

Lucy Casot, chief executive of MGS, said: “Every year Scotland’s university museums welcome people from near and far to explore their collections. From engaging with researchers to toddler groups, these museums are multi-faceted visitor attractions alongside their role as places of academic research and teaching.

“University museums face continuing difficulties caused by the pandemic but have adapted their services to continue their work. Through the Covid-19 Museum Development Fund we are delighted to support university museums and their ambition to not only navigate these difficult times, but to increase access and engagement with their communities.”

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The four museums are all members of University Museums in Scotland (Umis), a network of the nine Scottish university museum services that have achieved Accreditation.

Sarah Burry-Hayes, coordinator of Umis, said: “Despite this challenging year, Scotland’s university museums have continued to focus their efforts on becoming more accessible to a broader range of audiences, and improving the visitor experience, be that online or physically.

“This funding will enable the university museums to continue to develop projects that can lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future, and new and meaningful ways to engage with their communities.

“The museums are also ensuring these projects hold value for their universities, students and researchers, working with partners and ensuring that their digitised collections can be used in online teaching and by researchers worldwide.”

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