In brief | Latest news, funding and developments from the sector - Museums Association

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In brief | Latest news, funding and developments from the sector

Vagina Museum finds new home while MGS launches scheme to improve access to culture
The Vagina Museum will reopen to the public next month
The Vagina Museum will reopen to the public next month Vagina Museum

Vagina Museum finds new home

The Vagina Museum is to reopen in a new location in east London following a successful fundraising campaign. The museum was forced to close at short notice earlier this year when a property guardianship on its previous premises came to an end. The museum, which is dedicated to gynaecological anatomy, will open to the public at its new premises on Poyser Street in London’s Bethnal Green on 4 November.

It will display a new temporary exhibition, Endometriosis: Into the Unknown, produced in collaboration with Oxford EndoCare, part of the Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health, and the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University. The new premises features three galleries, an events space, gift shop and café. Two of the galleries are located upstairs and will be closed until lift access is available.

Florence Schechter, director of the Vagina Museum said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be opening our doors to the world once again. We love a big opening! The new Vagina Museum home is bigger and better than ever before, and we can’t wait for you to visit.”

Museums Galleries Scotland unveils scheme to improve access to culture

Teenage visitors at the Riverside Museum Olami Omages

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) has received £770,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to support more people to access culture.  

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The grant, along with £250,000 in funding from the Scottish Government, will support a new three-year programme, Delivering Change, which will seek to address systemic exclusion within the sector, where systems (economic, social, political and cultural) intentionally disadvantage groups of people based on their identity, while advantaging members of the dominant group.

The programme has been informed by the experience of those who have experienced barriers to participation in culture.

It will consist of three elements:

  • Museum Learning Programme – personal and organisational learning to support re-structuring organisations based on anti-oppressive principles.
  • Funding Programme – Community-Museum Partnership Fund with grants up to £20k-£25k, Case by Case Fund with grants up to £5k, and the Sustainable Co-Production Fund of grants up to £40k.
  • Leadership Programme – peer to peer learning programme through pairing senior museums professionals with professionals from third sector equalities organisations.

Shoemakers Museum gets off on the right foot

A rendition of the new museum building

Planning permission has been granted for the Shoemakers Museum, a new museum in Street, Somerset, that will tell history of the town and the story of the 200-year-old Clarks shoemaking company. The museum, which will be run the Alfred Gillett Trust, will explore the social and cultural history of shoemaking, from the early days of hand-made shoes to the modern era of mass production.

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The new two-storey building will sit within the grounds of the Grange, a Grade II listed building in Street famous for its connection to the shoemaking family. The building has been associated with shoemaking for over a century and will showcase Clarks’ story and collection.

The new museum will incorporate a permanent gallery, temporary display areas, an open-air events space, a schools’ education room, and a research and study library. In addition, there will be a café and a chance for the public to see the permanently displayed Ichthyosaur fossils, for which Street is internationally known. The new museum hopes to welcome between 50,000 to 75,000 visitors a year.

Arts Council England launches research on freelance workforce

Two people sitting across from each other in conversation
The arts council is hoping to better understand the contribution of freelancers Stock photo

Arts Council England has opened a survey to help it build a picture of the freelance workforce in the arts sectors it supports. The organisation is seeking responses from people who are currently freelancers or have freelanced in the past in arts sectors including museums, libraries and the combined arts and the visual arts. The research is intended to help the arts council to understand the contribution of freelancers in the sector, advocate the opportunities and challenges and build towards a more equitable, accessible and sustainable future for the creative and cultural workforce. The survey closes on 31 October.

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Heritage Fund launches £200m scheme to unlock heritage potential in poorer areas

The Heritage Places

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has launched a 10-year programme that aims to transform heritage in disadvantaged areas across the UK. The new Heritage Places initiative will support 20 areas over the long-term to unlock the potential of their heritage.

The scheme will provide early funding to engage communities and develop partnerships, as well as seeking out wider investment and supporting new projects and collaborations to address issues such as regeneration, sustainability and employment.

Heritage Fund chief executive Eilish McGuinness said: “For the last 30 years, the Heritage Fund has invested in heritage making better places for communities to live, work and visit. Our Heritage Places builds on this and is designed to support in challenging times, to achieve even greater impact, and commits our funding for the long-term.”

The first nine Heritage Places are: Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon; County Durham; Glasgow; Leicester; Medway; Neath Port Talbot; North East Lincolnshire; Stoke-on-Trent; and Torbay.

A further 11 Heritage Places will be considered as part of the development of the Heritage Fund’s next three-year delivery plan.

Natural History Museum launches Nature Education Park

Two men in a pond gathering plants
The Natural History Museum's head of gardens Tom McCarter and director Doug Gurr

The Natural History Museum has launched the National Education Nature Park, a new programme for schools, nurseries and colleges in England designed to empower young people to make a positive difference to both their own and nature’s future. 

The programme is being delivered by the museum with the Royal Horticultural Society and other partners. Responding to the urgency of the planetary emergency, the scheme aims to transform how climate education is taught and support young people to act and increase biodiversity across England. The initiative will give children and young people the opportunity to connect to nature while investigating and recording what’s living and growing on their learning sites. Teachers and education staff across England are being invited to register their education setting for the National Education Nature Park on a new website.

Digisiting natural history collections report

The Natural History Museum has also published a new report showing that digitising natural history collections plays a vital role in understanding the planet and climate crisis. The report found that £18m was saved by researchers accessing digital data rather than physical collections, and that software can complete in a week what it would take a human two years to achieve. It calls for investment to “secure the UK’s stance as a world superpower in science and tech, and for a future in which both people and planet thrive”.

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