In brief | Latest projects, moves, funding and more - Museums Association

In brief | Latest projects, moves, funding and more

Bowes Museum's Silver Swan brought to life | Tetley gallery rebrand | Sandy Nairne named Art Fund chair
The Silver Swan has been subject to an extensive restoration and conservation project
The Silver Swan has been subject to an extensive restoration and conservation project © Silver Swan, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

Bowes Museum's Silver Swan comes back to life

The Bowes Museum’s much-loved Silver Swan is operational for the first time in four years following an extensive restoration and conservation project.

After more than 1500 hours of work carried out by specialist horologists, the 250-year-old lifesize automata was brought back to life for visitors this week.

The solid silver exhibit, which was made in the workshop of James Cox in London and was first shown in his museum in 1773, is recognised as one of the finest examples of 18th-century automata in the world. Three clockwork mechanisms, containing more than 2,000 moving parts, allow the swam to swim, preen and feed herself on a flowing glass stream, accompanied by music.

The restoration and conservation project was carried out by experts from the Cumbria Clock Company, assisted by clocks interns from West Dean College in Sussex and Birmingham School of Jewellery alongside the Museum's in-house conservation team. 

Students from the conservation course at Lincoln University also observed the restoration process. Visitors were able to observe much of the restoration and conservation work being carried out in the Silver Swan gallery.  


Keith Scobie-Youngs, the director of the Cumbria Clock Company said: " It's been incredible to get an insight into the workings of the clock makers of the past and see how so many of the skills they possessed are still relevant today and to have been able to pass on that knowledge to a new generation of clockmakers and horologists has been incredibly humbling."

The project was funded by a grant of £146,324.00 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, money from the Friends of the Bowes Museum, the Leche Trust, the Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Circles of Art and a crowdfunding campaign that raised £20,375, as well as private donors.

Tetley rebrands as it searches for a new permanent home

The Tetley was forced to leave its former home last year

The Tetley contemporary art gallery in Leeds is to rebrand following its departure from the Tetley building last year.


The gallery will announced a new name and identity later this year to “mark a new chapter” after it was forced to leave its previous home in the Tetley building in 2023 when the building changed ownership.

The Tetley had hoped to reopen in a new venue this year but says these plans are “no longer viable”. A statement from the gallery said: “We’ve been working hard to identify a new home in Leeds with several partners, collaborating on what seemed like very promising outcomes – but due to the financial climate these plans have not materialised.”

The gallery said it would continue its work while it searches for a new home.

The statement said: “Our priority is to continue our mission as a charity as we search for a new home and many exciting projects are already underway.”

Its ongoing work includes presenting free exhibitions; commissioning public art; collaborating with communities and artists to provide new play opportunities; and working internationally to foster links between artists and audiences.

The statement said: “We believe in the importance of contemporary art – and it’s what we’ll continue to champion, support and make happen. So, we’ll see you soon. Not at The Tetley, but perhaps in your nearby community centre; your local park; or across the streets of our city.”


Sandy Nairne appointed Art Fund chair

Sandy Nairne Art Fund

Sandy Nairne is to succeed Lord Smith of Finsbury as Art Fund's chair of trustees this autumn. Nairne, who was director of the National Portrait Gallery from 2002-15, has had a 45-year career in museums and galleries, including positions at Tate, the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, as well as working in television and writing.

His governance and advisory experience includes roles with St Paul’s Cathedral, Maggie’s cancer care, Courtauld Collection, Seafarers Hospital Society, Clore Leadership Programme, National Trust, the Mayor’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, the Wolfson Foundation and the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Committee.

Nairne said: “I am honoured to be appointed as Chair of Art Fund and to follow Chris Smith, who has led it with such distinction through a period of successful development. This is a dynamic, independent organisation that I admire tremendously. Art Fund is doing crucial work across the visual arts, particularly at a time when renewing collections, investing in expertise and extending engagement are vital to the culture and heritage of this country.”

Art Fund director Jenny Waldman said: “I am delighted to welcome Sandy Nairne to Art Fund. He brings to the role of chair a deep knowledge of the museum and gallery sector and a wealth of curatorial, operational and strategic experience.”

Holocaust centre seeks writer and translator for remembrance project

Holocaust Centre North is expanding its Memorial Gestures project Holocaust Centre North

Holocaust Centre North in Huddersfield is seeking a writer and a translator to be part of its Memorial Gestures project. Launched in 2022, the artistic residency invites established and emerging artists to create a new artwork in response to its collections and archives around Holocaust remembrance and history.

Building on its current structure, the project is now seeking two further paid residencies - one for a writer-in-residence working in any form, and one for a translator-in-residence working across any two or more languages, particularly languages of significance to the Holocaust or relevant to the North of England.

The writer and translator will join the four artists currently on the residency and will be invited to respond to, and translate, the centre’s memories, artefacts and accounts, covering themes of discrimination, displacement, trauma, migration, loss, memory and hope.

“By inviting writers and translators to engage creatively with these historic and significant documents, our residencies will offer creative practitioners a rare opportunity to explore the way survivors told their stories and reflected on their experiences through the written word,” said centre director Alessandro Bucci.

“In doing so, we are hopeful and excited that the output of these innovative writing residencies – alongside our artistic ones - will contribute greatly towards making these stories accessible for future generations.”

Museum of London decantation hits half-way point

The Museum of London has released behind the scenes footage to celebrate reaching the half-way milestone of its two-year process to pack up its London Wall galleries.

The museum is preparing to move to a new home in Smithfield in 2026 and is currently removing around 10,000 objects from display in its former home. The process of de-installing the items began in January 2023; the museum is barcoding, auditing, digitising and packing up each object individually, with items ranging from small, delicate archaeological glass to the large-scale objects like the 2012 Olympic Cauldron and a Selfridges lift.

The museum's new home will be in the restored Smithfield market buildings. The museum aims to welcome millions more visitors and every London schoolchild through its doors.

Funding supports artists to work with immersive tech

A BBC showcase in 2022 Jon Aitken

A new project will support more than 200 UK-based artists and organisations to explore the creative potential of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies.

Funded through a £6m grant from the XRtists scheme, the three-year Immersive Arts project aims to support artists to unlock the creative potential of new technology.

The XRtists scheme is jointly supported by Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Creative Scotland and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The UK-wide Immersive Arts programme will give artists the opportunity to access training, mentoring, specialist facilities and funds, with £3.6m in grants available to help them get their ideas off the ground.

The term ‘immersive technology’ encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and technologies, including the games engines used to make virtual and augmented reality apps, as well as the motion capture, LED screens and spatial audio experiences.

The programme will be led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), with the lead hub at Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and Watershed as Executive Producer.

They will work in partnership with the University of Bristol and cultural organisations in Belfast and Derry, Cardiff and Glasgow on the programme.

Director of Immersive Arts, Verity McIntosh, who is the associate professor of virtual and extended realities at UWE Bristol, said: “In the coming three years we will be offering an inclusive and accessible programme of research, training, funding opportunities and events. Immersive Arts has been designed to foster a growing, collaborative community of UK artists experimenting with immersive materials, and connecting with audiences around the world.”

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