How our biggest portfolio to date will support museums to transform lives - Museums Association

How our biggest portfolio to date will support museums to transform lives

The latest NPO round ensures museums can be a constant for their communities at this time of uncertainty, says Emmie Kell
Arts Council England
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Emmie Kell
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Arts Council England has announced details of its new National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) for 2023/26. For museums:

  • there is an investment of £37.6m across England, an increase of 21%
  • this includes more £6m of new investment into an additional 28 museum-led organisations
  • the overall NPO investment covers more than 223 separate museum sites.

I have seen first-hand the power of museums to educate and inspire communities, ignite conversations on social issues and change our understanding of the world. Museums provide a space for us to understand our culture, ourselves, and the communities around us.

Our investments should benefit the length and breadth of the country and so we’re proud to present our biggest portfolio to date.

These organisations will receive regular funding for the next three years as NPOs in our Investment Programme 2023-26. Delivering on our 2020-30 strategy, Let’s Create, this investment supports museums to deliver for people in more places up and down the country.

Last year we published our commitment to increase museum investment; we’re proud to have achieved this. Building on the foundations we have already created over the last 10 years, we are now supporting a wider variety of museums so that our portfolio showcases the inspiring stories from around the country and beyond.

We’re proud to announce that 21 museums receiving this investment are in Levelling Up for Culture Places – areas in which cultural investment is too low – of which 10 of these are first time recipients of this money. Our investment is spread across England, from Barnstaple to Bradford, St Albans to Shrewsbury, this investment round is about everyone everywhere having the opportunity to experience and be inspired by museums and their collections.

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At their best, museums bring our stories to life so that we can all learn and understand each other and, in turn, ourselves. The Foundling Museum in London, for example, working with, and illuminating the stories of care-experienced young people, or the National Paralympic Heritage Trust in Aylesbury, who exist to "enlighten and inspire future generations by celebrating, cherishing and bringing the Paralympic heritage and its stories of human endeavour to life". 

The pandemic has demonstrated culture and creativity’s power to transform the lives of local people, and in times of uncertainty and hardship, museums should be a constant for communities.

There’s Mansfield Museum in Nottinghamshire, a new addition to our portfolio, who deliver the Art Power: Creative Women Together project. Inspired by the museum’s collection, the project works with vulnerable women to build confidence, promote a sense of place, encourage pride in creation and make friendships.

The National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Newark has increased investment to support innovative digital engagement that will deepen engagement with schools, local councils and the criminal justice system in a Levelling Up for Culture Place.

We also welcome St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in Hampshire to our portfolio, which is dedicated to building a creative community hub, offering food programmes for low-income families, and community wellbeing tools to combat social isolation. Museums are much more than buildings with artefacts, they are families, people, communities.

This is the power of culture. This is how museums transform lives.

This investment is a commitment to supporting the country to be ambitious, helping museums to be stronger and foster the tools they need to benefit the communities they serve. I am very excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

Emmie Kell is the director of the Museums and Cultural Property Team at Arts Council England

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