Institutions in England will shortly be able to apply for grants from the Museum Estate and Development Fund (Mend), which came about after warnings from sector bodies that the UK’s crumbling museum infrastructure was putting collections at risk.
The long-awaited funding was delayed for a year due to Covid. Arts Council England is distributing the fund, which will provide £18.8m in grants this financial year. The fund is open to non-national Accredited museums and will support museums to carry out work on vital infrastructure and maintenance issues. It can also be used towards improving accessibility and environmental sustainability.
Expressions of interest open on 1 June with a deadline of 5 July, while full applications must be submitted by 18 October.
The scheme was created after sector bodies including the Museums Association (MA), the National Museum Directors’ Council, Art Fund, and the English Civic Museums Network worked together to highlight the urgent need for investment in civic museum infrastructure.
MA policy manager Alistair Brown said: “We are delighted to see the Mend fund becoming a reality. Museums across England struggle with the expense and difficulty of maintaining buildings that often have unique heritage value. Today’s news will not solve all the problems that museums face – but it will be a real help for many to deal with urgent upkeep issues such as improving heating and wiring.
“The MA has worked closely with sector bodies to advocate for this funding as part of the wider Cultural Investment Fund, and we urge museums to consider applying in this round or future rounds of the fund.”
Mend is one of three streams in a £42m Cultural Investment Fund package intended to support the long-term recovery of the arts, heritage and creative industry sectors. Another stream is the existing Cultural Development Fund, which will hand out £18.5m this year to support places outside London to invest in creative, cultural and heritage initiatives designed to make them more attractive to live, work in and visit. The final stream is the £5m Libraries Improvement Fund.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “After awarding hundreds of millions in emergency grants and loans to help cultural organisations survive the immediate effects of the pandemic, it's now time to look to the future.
“The Cultural Investment Fund will boost local museums, libraries and creative projects across the country, helping local communities build back better and ensuring culture is at the heart of their recovery.”