Art Fund campaign aims to boost museum access among young people - Museums Association

Art Fund campaign aims to boost museum access among young people

Sector must take urgent action to inspire the next generation of visitors, charity says
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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The campaign will support programmes for younger audiences in institutions across the UK in 2022
The campaign will support programmes for younger audiences in institutions across the UK in 2022 Pixabay

The national art charity Art Fund has launched a fundraising campaign to enable more young people to engage with museums and galleries.

The Energise Young Minds campaign hopes to raise £1m to support programmes for younger audiences in 2022 across the UK’s museums and galleries. Art Fund has already committed £500,000 from its charitable reserves and a further £50,000 from its National Art Pass members towards the campaign.

The charity said the £1m pledge “represents a major commitment to fuelling museum visiting for the next generation, after months of disruptions for both museums and young people nationwide”.

Art Fund said a recent survey of its members had found that a third of museums have no published offer for schools and young people. It said museum opportunities for younger audiences have been especially vulnerable to budget cuts, with widespread redundancies among museum learning and engagement teams during the pandemic.

Another Art Fund survey of more than 230 teachers from state schools showed that only 32% were aware of professional development opportunities to use museums to improve learning outcomes in their teaching.

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The charity said breaking down barriers for the next generation of museum visitors is “one of the most urgent priorities for the sector following the pandemic”.

Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, said: “There is an almost perfect storm brewing. During lockdown, school trips to museums and galleries were not possible – and it’s not clear that these will resume at previous levels. Meanwhile, cash-strapped cultural institutions have had to make difficult decisions that have often had an impact on learning teams.

“We cannot allow cultural poverty for kids and must act now to help young people, those with least access to experiencing the arts, have opportunities to enjoy all that the UK’s museums can offer.

“This age group has missed out after enormous disruption to their learning and wellbeing and we know those in the most deprived areas have been hit hardest. I would encourage everyone who cares about children and young people having access to culture to donate whatever they can afford. Even a small amount will make a huge difference.”

Cultural figures including the poet Lemn Sissay and the artist Bob and Roberta Smith have lent their support to the campaign.

Headley Fellowships
Headley Fellowships 2021 Art Fund

Meanwhile, the charity has also announced the recipients of the latest round of the Headley Fellowships with Art Fund programme, which supports curators to develop specialist knowledge about public collections. The 11 curators in the latest round will share £302,500 to conduct in-depth research into their collections.

Latest Headley Fellowships
  • Jack Ashby, assistant director, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge – researching the history of the Australian mammals collection, exploring the human stories of how collectors worked in the past to shed light on the links between natural history and colonial history, and to highlight previously little-known figures who contributed expertise, such as women and Indigenous collectors.
  • Rachel Atherton, co-production curator, Derby Museums – researching Derby Museums’ Egyptology Collections, with the aim of enabling the museum to investigate and challenge traditionally told histories of ancient Egypt.
  • Bret Gaunt, project officer, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Buxton – restitution of Native American and First Nations objects acquired by the museum as part of a transfer of material from the Derbyshire School Library Service, including fully researching the artefacts and showcasing them at the museum.
  • Tehmina Goskar, director and curator, Curatorial Research Centre, Helston – examining the history of the museum’s collections, charting the impact of collecting turning-points and examining ethical issues, while developing a toolkit for the sector. The project also includes the co-curation of an exhibition in Camborne to share the collections of the former Camborne Museum with local audiences.
  • Dominique Heyse-Moore, head of collections and exhibitions, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester – researching and reinterpreting the museum’s world textile collection, aiming to tell a genuinely global story of textiles at the Whitworth.
  • Frances Houston, curator, Scottish Crannog Centre – Researching Early Iron Age pottery, examining two pottery assemblages, both dated c.500BC but with differences in fabric, quality and decoration, that have never been catalogued, examined or displayed before, and creating a new museum display around them.
  • Kathleen Lawther, freelance curator, Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent – Museum Makers, a project using the museum’s archive and photographic collections to research and tell the stories of the people who made the museum’s natural history and ethnographic collections possible, aiming to create a digital record of previously marginalised museum makers.
  • Alex Patterson, assistant curator of fine art, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool – Decolonising the Sculpture Collection. This project will on focus on key artists working from the mid-18th to the late-19th century, including the sculptor John Gibson (1790-1866). By working with Liverpool’s Black and Minority Ethnic communities and conducting vital new research, it will transform how the collection is interpretated and address the erasure and absence of Liverpool’s history relating to slavery, empire and colonialism from the gallery’s collections.
  • Adrian Plau, Wellcome Collection, London – building a model for responsible repatriation manuscript by cataloguing and researching provenance of the museum’s Jain manuscript collection from South Asia.
  • Fiona Poole, senior curator, York Castle Museum – researching the museum’s collection of objects relating to York’s main confectionary businesses, unpicking the human stories behind the museum’s holdings by researching previously recorded oral testimonies, archives, and objects.
  • Kathryn Warburton, curator, Macclesfield Silk Museum – Machines and Memories: 20th Century Industrial Silk Machinery, a project to reinvigorate a collection of Macclesfield’s 20 century silk machinery, uncovering hidden stories relating to the machines’ industrial impact and the lives of people who operated them.

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