National Museums Scotland and London's National Maritime Museum have received a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to enable organisations around the UK to work with community groups to explore experiences of empire, migration, and life in Britain through their collections.
The £250,000 pilot project, Community-Led Collections Research, will see funding distributed to galleries, libraries, archives and museums to work with South Asian, African and African-Caribbean diaspora organisations to answer research questions identified by the community groups.
The year-long project will see National Museums Scotland and the National Maritime Museum working as a hub. The two institutions will gather evidence for best practice guidelines, provide expert guidance and hold a central fund that will be distributed to partner organisations around the UK.
Outputs will include new research into the “historic and contemporary meanings of objects”, which aims to inspire new, creative projects defined by community groups that will be centred around the collections of partner organisations. These will aim to “challenge and expand on established representations of diaspora experiences”.
John Giblin, keeper of world cultures at National Museums Scotland said: “We need to invest more work in how histories of empire, migration and life in Britain are told from the perspective of diaspora communities. This generous grant from the AHRC will allow organisations to work with UK communities who have historically been marginalised in museum and gallery displays to reveal and share a wider range of stories and perspectives.”
Robert Blyth, senior curator of world and maritime history at the National Maritime Museum said: “This exciting project, generously funded by the AHRC, will bring new and diverse perspectives to bear on the histories of empire, migration and life in Britain. Working with community groups and regional partners, the project will foster creative dialogues and suggest future ways of collaboration to explore these often contested but important subjects.”
Confirmed partner organisations in Scotland include Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, Glasgow Life and David Livingstone Birthplace. In England, they include the Museum of the Home, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Brunel’s SS Great Britain and Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums.
Meanwhile the AHRC has funded a further cross-border research project between Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland. The Outreach to Ownership project is seeking to recruit eight partner organisations, which will share £125,000 of funding to engage with community groups to research trends across the heritage and cultural sectors. Applications are now open and close on 6 December 2021.