News in brief | Latest deadlines, funding, projects and more - Museums Association

News in brief | Latest deadlines, funding, projects and more

Museum of London launches oral history platform and British Museum seeks touring partners
Digital Funding Tax
An artist’s impression of the entrance of the redeveloped London Museum
An artist’s impression of the entrance of the redeveloped London Museum © (l) Stanton Williams/Secchi Smith
Museum of London to make 5,000 oral histories available to the public

The Museum of London is launching a new digital platform in 2024 featuring 5,000 oral stories from its London Collection. The aim of the collection, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Accelerator for Arts and Culture, is to make the museum collection as accessible as possible. The new digital platform will be launched in 2024, ahead of the museum’s reopening at its new West Smithfield site, when it will be renamed the London Museum. By 2026 visitors will be able to customise their route around the museum using their phones.

The platform will feature first-hand audio-recorded stories and will be the largest London-centric oral history collection. One of these is an interview with Edith Poulson, who fled her birth place, Vienna, to escape Nazi persecution because of her Jewish heritage and became a teacher at the Open University. Another features barber Fylaktis Philippou who worked alone in the same shop until he was 84.

The museum’s website will also be transformed. Academics may still explore objects in detail but, from 2024, less experienced visitors will be able to view collections via a “stories-first” approach.

Trish Thomas, the head of digital innovation at Museum of London, said: “I am delighted that this project will enable us to bring London’s stories to life for millions more people in the capital and around the world.”

British Museum seeks touring partners for Hans Sloane exhibition

The British Museum is calling for partners to co-produce and host a touring exhibition at their venue. The exhibition would be fully funded and use the collection of the British Museum's founder, Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), to “explore new connections and perspectives”. The collection includes natural history rarities, books and artefacts. It is currently spread across the British Museum, British Library and Natural History Museum.

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The collaborative exhibition will be fully funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Sloane Lab project to facilitate a participatory approach. Support is also available from the Sloane Lab project curator and exhibition programme manager. The museum is encouraging potential partners to include their own relevant collections in order to bring these new contexts and perspectives. Interested organisations must apply by 20 January.

Deadline extended for VAT refund scheme

The UK-wide VAT Refund Scheme for museums and galleries is currently open for applications. The deadline for scheme has been extended deadline until Wednesday 5 March. Any museum and gallery open to the public free of charge for 30 hours a week can apply, with a total of 159 sites across the UK currently benefitting from the scheme. Eligible institutions are strongly encouraged to make use of the scheme, which is estimated to have refunded up to around £1bn to museums and galleries in the UK since it was established in 2001. To be considered for inclusion in the scheme museums or galleries must:

  • Be open to the general public for at least 30 hours per week, without exception
  • Offer free entry, without prior appointment
  • Hold collections in a purpose-built building
  • Display details of free entry and opening hours on the museum or gallery website.

Museums that open on a seasonal basis may be eligible for the scheme under certain conditions. 

To be considered for inclusion, museums must submit an application to the relevant body covering their nation or specialist area. More information on applying can be found on the UK Government website.

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ACE announces round three of Museum Estate and Development Fund
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery received nearly £5 in a previous round of the Museums Estate and Development Fund

Arts Council England has announced a third round of funding for the Museum and Estate Development Fund (Mend) as part of its Cultural Investment Fund. Mend is aimed at non-national Accredited museums and local authorities in England. The fund is for urgent infrastructural or maintenance issues which cannot be resolved with existing maintenance budgets.

Expressions of interest will open on 6 March and close on 21 April. Full applications will be accepted from 19 July until 18 September.

Applications now open for Collections Trust Award

The Collections Trust Award is now accepting applications. The award aims to shine a light on collections-based work in museums and celebrate those who manage collections. This year the award will focus on work around the trust’s recent “rethinking cataloguing” campaign via Spectrum 5.1 – the newest version of its collection management standard. The trust is paying special attention to collections management with an inclusive approach, and to any work that has focused on making collections information more accessible.

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Anyone who has worked on innovative cataloguing projects, changed their approach since Spectrum 5.1 was launched or enhanced access to collection information is encouraged to apply. The winner will receive £1,000 to spend on an agreed collections management activity, and an online celebration event will be held in March. The deadline for submissions is 23 January.

Final call for artists' expressions of interest to UAL Decolonising Arts Institute
Shenece Oretha, In Counter Harmony, during the Brent Biennial 2022

The UAL Decolonising Arts Institute has made its second and final open call for UK artists to apply for a national commissioning and network project as part of its 20/20 project. The programme is matching 20 “emerging or mid-career ethnically diverse artists who may identify as black, brown or as people of colour” with 20 public art collections for a three-year programme.

The 20/20 project was founded as a response to the artistic and cultural effects of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, such as conversations around national monuments and museum collections. The programme aims to challenge the negative portrayals of diverse groups in museums and galleries. Successful applicants will be matched with a host partner and undertake a 15-month residency which will “explore and respond to the collection’s history and holdings”.

Artists will receive support in developing their practice, while the project will encourage hosts to confront the effects of colonial histories on diverse audiences. Each host will also receive a collection of prints from the project, an exciting prospect for emerging artists who will have their work shown across 20 locations in the UK. The second call for artists is open until 6 February. 

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