Acquisitions fund toasts successful year - Museums Association

Acquisitions fund toasts successful year

NFA distributed £86,354 in 27 grants to 17 organisations across Scotland in 2020/21
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Simon Stephens
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Abigail McIntyre, senior curator at the Scottish Maritime Museum, pictured with an 80-year-old bottle of Scottish whisky salvaged from the 1923 SS Politician
Abigail McIntyre, senior curator at the Scottish Maritime Museum, pictured with an 80-year-old bottle of Scottish whisky salvaged from the 1923 SS Politician © Martin Shields

Indian folk art created in response to Covid-19, an 80-year-old bottle of whisky and a series of photographs documenting community activism and Aberdeen were among the purchases supported last year by the National Fund for Acquisitions (NFA).

The fund, which is financed by the Scottish Government and administered by National Museums Scotland (NMS), contributes to the acquisition of objects for the collections of Scottish museums, galleries, libraries, archives and other institutions.

The 2020-21 NFA annual report shows that the fund distributed £86,354 in 27 grants to 17 organisations across Scotland. The total value of acquisitions supported was £215,354. A further 13 grants worth £49,172 were committed but not yet paid at the end of the year.

Acquisitions made with NFA support included:

  • Five examples of Indian folk art created in response to Covid-19 acquired by Glasgow Museums. These were bought as part of a wider Glasgow Life project to document the pandemic both locally and globally. Each work showcases a distinct style of art from a different region of India where rural folk art has traditionally been used to spread awareness within communities.
  • Two photographic series by Lee Garson acquired by Aberdeen Archives, Gallery and Museums: Shopping, which shows shoppers in socially-distanced queues, an activity emblematic of the crisis, and Documentary which captures community activism in a Black Lives Matter protest in Aberdeen city centre.
  • An 80-year-old bottle of whisky acquired by the Scottish Maritime Museum. The item, which was bought at auction, was recovered from the wreck of the SS Politician which ran aground on the Isle of Eriskay in 1941 en route to America with a cargo to raise funds for the war effort. Subsequent attempts by islanders to salvage the whisky inspired Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel Whisky Galore! and the popular Ealing Studio comedy of the same title.

Five of the acquisitions supported by the NFA were also supported by Art Fund. The Scottish Government gave £150,000 to the fund in 2020/21.

Acquisitions were slow at the start of the year because of Covid, when staff in many Scottish museums were furloughed. Applications picked up later in the year, but the fund still received fewer applications than normal (35 compared with 50 in 2019/20). This was partly due to a fall in Treasure Trove allocations as staff were unable to access finds and hold in-person meetings of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel.

Decisions on grant applications are made following consultation with curatorial staff at NMS, the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland.

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