The Dick, Kerr Ladies football team, whose star striker Lily Parr (pictured with the ball) was the first woman inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum

Lost history of women's football to be told thanks to Wolfson grant

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 23.01.2016
Fund awards £4m to 39 museums in latest round
A gallery on women’s footballing history and an exhibition on how the Ashmolean became the world’s first public museum are among the projects set to benefit from the latest round of the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.

The fund, which is run as a partnership between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Wolfson Foundation, granted £4m to 39 institutions across England last week in its 2016-18 round.

The fund supports capital projects in museums and galleries to refresh permanent displays, increase public access and make physical improvements to their facilities and interpretation.

The National Football Museum in Manchester was awarded just over £100,000 to shine a spotlight on the overlooked story of women’s football in an exhibition of memorabilia from the 1890s to the present day. The funding will enable the museum to curate and display the largest collection of women's football-related artefacts in the world, which it acquired last year from the estate of the late US soccer coach Chris Unger.

The National Football Museum’s interim director Kevin Haygarth said: “We’re grateful and excited by the opportunity to create a dedicated gallery where we can finally piece together the lost history of women’s football.”

In Oxford, the Ashmolean received £110,000 to delve into its own past in an exhibition celebrating the 400th anniversary of its founder Elias Ashmole. The funding will enable the museum to create a theatrical permanent gallery in the style of a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities, which will explore how Ashmole’s vision laid the foundation for modern museums.

The museum’s director Xa Sturgis said the grant would allow it to “tell the story of the founding of the first public museum and why it is called the Ashmolean, what it was opened for in 1683 and why it is in Oxford”.

Elsewhere in the city, the Museum of Natural History received £90,000 to develop an exhibition on deep sea marine reptiles, allowing the newly conserved skeleton of a plesiosaur to be displayed for the first time.  

National Museums Liverpool was awarded £200,000 towards transforming one of the oldest parts of Merseyside Maritime Museum into a new exhibition space, the Sea Galleries, exploring Britain’s relationship with the sea.

One of the largest grants went to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Chichester, which was given £224,500 to rebuild two demolished historic buildings, a bakery and a dairy, which will be used to demonstrate heritage food production.  

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter was granted £190,000 to improve its World Cultures ethnographic gallery, while the Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields won a £150,000 grant to improve interpretation, physical access and way-finding.

The Wolfson Fund was established in 2000 and has awarded around £44m to museums and galleries in England in that period.
 
The culture minister Matt Hancock said: “We want people to be able to enjoy world-leading culture wherever they live and whatever their background. These grants will make an important contribution toward increasing access to their wonderful collections and improving the visitor experience at museums right across the country.”

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