Heritage Fund moots investment in 'places of need'

People in a park
10 Aug 2022

New investment strategy for National Lottery Heritage Fund likely to feature larger grants for increased impact, with a focus on areas with greater need for support.

Controversial museum expansion given green light

10 Aug 2022

Controversial plans to add a new central hall to the National Railway Museum in York have been approved after a knife-edge vote from members of the local planning committee.

The plan to join the museum’s two halves with a rotunda has attracted opposition from local residents because it will close Leeman Road, a direct route used by people to access the city centre.

Residents will be able to pass through the museum to reach the city centre but access will be limited to opening hours and could involve delays and bag searches. An alternative route around the museum is expected to add 400 metres to the journey.

The application was initially deferred for a month at a meeting in July to allow an equalities impact assessment to be carried out, after councillors raised concerns about accessibility for disabled residents.

But disability rights campaigner Flick Williams described the assessment as “a hastily completed desktop exercise” and specialist access consultant Helen Kane described it as having “serious failings”, according to Yorkshire Live.

The museum’s director, Judith McNicol, said the museum took “issues surrounding access and equality very seriously” and said that the museum had employed accessibility consultants when designing the building.

Deprivation gap for arts participation widens

people visit a museum
05 Aug 2022

Government figures suggests the gap in participation in the arts between the most and least deprived people widened as the country emerged from Covid restrictions.

Visitor attraction to open after £28m redevelopment

03 Aug 2022

The world's first iron-framed building will open next month as a visitor attraction following a £28m restoration.

Known as the "grandparent of skyscrapers", the Main Mill structure at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings paved the way for modern-day skyscrapers as the world’s first iron-framed building following construction in 1797.

The site, consisting of eight listed buildings, has been closed for the past 35 years, but four of the buildings are due to open next month as a visitor destination and workspace following a £28m, eight-year restoration programme overseen by Historic England.

The opening will be accompanied by a new exhibition, "The Mill", telling the story of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, its crucial role in the industrial revolution and those who campaigned to save it. 

Heritage support programme returns for third year

03 Aug 2022

The third round of a programme aimed at responding to the challenges and financial constraints currently facing heritage organisations will begin in October.

The Steps to Sustainability programme, delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy, will see 30 heritage organisations receive support to strengthen their strategic leadership and income-generating skills.

The programme’s previous two rounds supported 110 learners across the UK, with 86% reporting an increase in confidence when implementing an income generating idea.

Participating organisations will have the chance to apply for a funding grant of up to £10,000 to incentivise increased trading income during and immediately after the programme.

"With the additional impact of Covid-19, a culture of enterprise to build a sustainable and resilient heritage sector is needed now more than ever," a Social Enterprise Academy spokesperson said.

'Recontextualised' portrait of slave owner back on display

02 Aug 2022

A portrait of slave owner Sir Thomas Picton has gone back on display at the National Museum of Cardiff alongside newly commissioned artworks and information that “reframes” his place in history.

The portrait is one of 209 memorials to people with links to slavery identified in Wales after a 2020 audit. It was removed last November.

The new exhibit, which sees the portrait displayed in a large wooden box with one side missing, was organised after consultation with the Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel (SSAP), which was invited to decide the future of the artwork.

The panel deemed that the work should be displayed alongside information about Picton’s actions as a slave owner in Trinidad, which included the torture of Luisa Calderon, a 14-year-old-girl, the torture of a second slave named Thisbe and the murder and posthumous dismemberment of a slave named Present.

The museum commissioned Trinidadian artists Gesiye and Miguela Gonzalez to create new artworks that reframe Picton’s legacy and give a voice to his victims.

Gesiye, who is from Trinidad and Tobago and has Nigerian heritage, created a short film and eight photographic portraits of Trinidadians baring tattoos. She found people willing to be tattoed for the project by advertising in newspapers and putting up flyers on the streets on Bristol.

“I'm using tattooing to kind of bring people together to share this connected story, but also to create a space where we feel safe to have these conversations about things that are usually quite painful and that we might otherwise avoid talking about,” she told the BBC.

Gonzalez created a large installation inspired by the Ol’ Mas traditions of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. It is an ancestral work that honours African traditions. 

“This is not a response to Picton himself, this is our understanding of our history and this is us filling in the gaps of a story,” she told the BBC.

The museum’s curator Dr Kath Davies said that “there are no neat narratives”. 

“I think what you'll see here today is an exhibition which tries to cover all the aspects of Picton's life and Picton's activity, and I think it'll be up to the audience to make their minds up,” she told the BBC.

Museum of London moves closer to fundraising target

02 Aug 2022

The Museum of London has received three major donations totalling £7m towards the creation of its new home at West Smithfield's General Market.

Donations of £5m from The Garfield Weston Foundation, £1m from The Schroder Foundation and Family and £1m from the Wolfson Foundation brings the museum close to its initial £40m fundraising target.

The three donations come as the museum finishes restoration work on the external facades of the almost 150-year-old General Market, which will host a festival curated by Londoners in 2025, before the museum opens in 2026.

Internal works to the General Market building are also progressing, with excavation completed on the site’s former Salt Stores and Vaults to create trenches for ventilation and services. 

“We are marching forward at pace to create a fantastic new museum for the city – one that tells the story of London and its people in all its complicated and colourful glory,” London Museum Director Sharon Ament said.

Historic England funds working class history projects

27 Jul 2022

Historic England has awarded 57 projects a total of £774,000 from its Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories fund.

Selected via an open call that attracted more than 500 applications, awards range from £6,000 to £25,000 for each project. 

The successful projects include ones looking at the working-class histories of boxing clubs around Halifax, an exploration of 50 years of nightclubbing in Leicester focusing on Black, African and Caribbean culture, and research into Deptford's 19th century 'slaughterhouse girls' who worked in the area's cattle markets.

Historic England described the projects as "community-led and people-focused, with a focus on heritage that links people to overlooked local historic places and celebrating working-class histories". 

Chief Executive Duncan Wilson said the awardees "demonstrate that heritage is all around us and accessible to everyone".

"They will highlight that wherever people live they are surrounded by historic buildings, landscapes and streets, industrial and coastal heritage that can help bring communities together."

The grants form part of Historic England’s Strategy for Inclusion, Diversity and Equality, published in November 2020 which aims to ensure a diverse range of people in England is able to "connect with, enjoy and benefit from the historic environment".

Pandemic research informs future of NI museums 

25 Jul 2022

New research shows that “the pandemic was a time to reassess museum purpose and find new ways of keeping relevant”, said Elizabeth Crooke, Professor of Museum and Heritage Studies at Ulster University.

Researchers at the university have spent two years investigating the sector’s response to the pandemic as part of the Museums, Crisis and Covid-19 initiative, funded by UK Research and Innovation. 

The research focused on how museums can contribute to community resilience and wellbeing. Its recommendations are expected to help support museums, funders and policymakers build on experience learned through the pandemic.

Three separate reports focus on distinct areas: museums and the pandemic (revisiting purposes and priorities); museums and community wellbeing; and museums, Covid and digital media (innovation, engagement and practice).

“This research project found evidence of an innovative and engaged museum sector, committed to new and established audiences,” said Crooke.

“The Northern Ireland museum sector has proved itself agile, able to adapt its services at the most challenging times.”

Crooke added that future priorities, informed by the project, include “reaching new audiences; addressing museum purposes for changed social, economic and political landscapes; and deepening museum links with communities and the issues that matter to them”.

Stella Byrne, Head of Investment  at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Northern Ireland, said that the research “has helped the National Lottery Heritage Fund to better understand the infrastructure needs of the sector and tailor our emergency funding responses. It will also guide our future support for the sector”.

Ukrainian Cross awarded Grade II listed status

21 Jul 2022

A second world war Ukrainian Cross in Cornwall has been awarded Grade II listed status by DCMS.

It is being granted to “recognise its significance as a symbol of Ukrainian gratitude for refuge in Cornwall and will serve as a reminder of the impact of wars on displaced communities throughout history,” the DCMS says.

The cross was built by Ukrainian refugees in 1948 as a symbol of gratitude to the UK and to mark their strong Christian faith. The year before hundreds of displaced Ukrainians were housed on the land opposite the cross in temporary military buildings, before being moved to permanent accommodation in surrounding villages.

Recently settled refugees visited the landmark today (21 July) with Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston and Deputy Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK Taras Krykun.

“This poignant Ukrainian Cross is an important symbol of Britain’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” Huddleston said.

“Just as we welcomed those fleeing Soviet Russia 75 years ago, the whole country stands alongside Ukrainians escaping the atrocities of Putin’s illegal war today.”

Museums must play a role in climate emergency

21 Jul 2022

With the climate crisis worsening, museum professionals are having to put environmental issues at the forefront of their decision-making, writes Veronica Ferrari.

Natural History Museum 'on path to irrelevance and failure’

19 Jul 2022

The Natural History Museum (NHM) is “set on a course that can only lead to irrelevance and failure”, a former member of staff at its Department of Life Sciences has warned. 

In an article entitled The tragedy of the Natural History Museum, Fred Naggs, an honorary Scientific Associate at the museum, criticised its “utterly inappropriate leadership and funding model".

He said that the NHM is the only public sector research establishment to be funded through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, adding that “role of DCMS has been an unmitigated disaster”. 

Founded in 1881, the museum’s collection includes around 80 million items spanning botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology and has long been recognised as a world-leading institution. 

Naggs said the museum’s declaration of a planetary emergency has been undermined by the “inappropriate” leadership, he wrote, diverting its research in directions that overlap with other academic agencies and “undermining the reason and justification for the museum’s existence”. 

“Rather than responding to a planetary emergency, the museum is tragically descending into irrelevance,” he wrote, adding that during a period of mass extinctions it is prioritising “aspirational virtue signalling” over science.

“Its current strategy, vision and priorities are fundamentally flawed”, he warned in his conclusion, adding that “the upbeat assertion that we can deal with the environmental and biodiversity crisis and dismissive rejection of so-called doom-mongering, is not just irresponsible and dishonest, but deluded and dangerous.”

Naggs outlined some steps he believes the NHM should take to regain its relevance.

Establishing an external review body made up of international scientific authorities would be a “first step” towards changing direction, he wrote. “This would need to be followed up by the restoration of regular external reviews.”

He called on the museum to return to a collections-based focus and establish a new model for building collections based on shared objectives.

“There is an urgent need to build new collections both for future research and to contribute to safeguarding and restoring a biodiverse world,” he wrote.

“Existing collections do not begin to meet the need for a collection’s legacy for a future in which much of Earth’s biodiversity will have been lost.”

A Natural History Museum spokesperson said: "Our scientifically-critical collections and world-leading research expertise both play a pivotal role in finding solutions to the planetary emergency. 

"We are committed, through initiatives such as our planned digitisation and science facility, to ensuring the collections and the vast data contained in them are safe, accessible and digitally available for researchers all over the world, enabling cutting-edge analysis and major scientific collaboration to help tackle issues such as biodiversity loss, climate change and food insecurity."

Art Fund announces museum of the year

18 Jul 2022

The Horniman museum in South East London has been crowned the Art Fund museum of the year.

This year’s edition of the annual award focused particularly on museums working to engage the next generation of audiences in innovative ways. The award’s judges commended the Forest Hill museum for reconfiguring its programme in light of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and the increasing urgency of the climate crisis.

The Horniman's Reset Agenda has focused on reaching diverse audiences more representative of London and included embedding a Climate and Ecology Manifesto. The museum has also carried out gallery takeovers by children aged 14-19 on its youth panel, offered work experiences and Kickstart apprenticeships and showcased Black British creativity at a sold-out festival, with a related exhibition reaching nearly 20,000 visitors.

Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman said the Horniman is “in many ways, the perfect museum”.

“Its values are woven through everything it now does, with a passionate team breathing life and meaning into every object, performance, plant and animal.”

Horniman director Nick Merriman was presented with £100,000, the world’s largest museum prize, at a ceremony last week.

The other four shortlisted museums – Oxford’s the Story Museum, Manchester’s the People’s History Museum, Wrexham’s Ty Pawb, and the Museum of Making in Derby – each received £15,000.

Teachers call for Science Museum gallery boycott

18 Jul 2022

An open letter signed by more than 400 teachers and educators is calling on the Science Museum to drop oil giant Adani as sponsor for its new Energy Revolution Gallery.

Co-ordinated by the Fossil Free Science Museum collective, the letter is the latest expression of concern over the museum’s oil sponsors, BP, Shell and Equinor and Adani, the latter of which was announced last year and led to several high profile boycotts and resignations.

Due to open next year, the Energy Revolution Gallery's target audience is Key Stage 3 and 4 students studying geography and science and young people aged 11-18, according to internal museum documents obtained following a Freedom of Information request.

The signatories pledge not to bring students to the new gallery, or any other gallery, sponsored by a fossil fuel company.

Stating that eco-anxiety amongst young people is on the rise, the letter asks how students are “supposed to feel when they see the Science Museum aligning itself, through multiple projects, with some of the world’s biggest polluters”.

“These sponsorship deals are not altruistic acts, but part of a wider strategy by fossil fuel-producing companies to convince the public that they are the ones solving the climate crisis, rather than the ones creating it,” the letter says.

Successful CDF bids share commitment to cultural legacy

Exterior of Paignton Picture House in Torbay
14 Jul 2022

Local authorities in the areas of the seven funded projects in Cultural Development Fund round two are found to have strong cultural strategies and value their local cultural sector.

Sudanese museums demand return of artefacts

13 Jul 2022

Three Sudanese museums that received £1 million in funding from the British Council are demanding the return of colonial artefacts taken by imperial troops in the 19th century.

The museums, overseen by Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), were awarded the grants in 2018 to help with restoration efforts after they were damaged by regional conflict.

The head of the NCAM has now demanded that the UK repatriate looted Sudanese cultural treasures including banners, armour and human remains taken after the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, suggesting that they could be moved to the museums that received the funding.

The artefacts in question are currently held at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, the Royal Armouries and the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum.

“We have to have a big campaign. These people are our brothers, our heroes. They unified and defended our country. It is a very special story of resistance to imperialism,” said Dr. Eglal el-Malik, the NCAM’s Conservation Director, according to a report in the Telegraph.

The choice to fund organisations lobbying for repatriation of artefacts has raised questions about how cash is awarded by organisations such as the British Council, which is partially government funded.

A British Council spokesperson said: “We are proud of our cultural protection work in Sudan. It has helped to strengthen the cultural ties between the UK and Sudan.

"The grant, which was provided in 2018, aimed to protect cultural heritage at risk and does not have a remit on repatriations of cultural artefacts."

Potteries Museum and Art Gallery gets major investment

12 Jul 2022

The Stoke-on-Trent City Archives are due to be relocated into the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery thanks to a major investment into the city’s historic records and collections from the city council.

The City Archives, which are part of the joint Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service, are currently housed at City Central Library. They are due to be moved in 2023, to enhance the museum’s offering for visitors and residence. 

The archive service is a popular learning resource and knowledge hub for the local community.

The plan will bring together two important historical collections in modern, purpose-built facilities. The museum will create a new reading room in the foyer as part of ongoing plans to invest in and develop the city’s museums.

“The archive service is a much-loved provision that gives visitors access to a wide range of historical records,” said Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Public Health at Stoke City Council.

“One of our priorities is to maintain the culture and heritage of Stoke-on-Trent. By relocating the archives to The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, we will be enhancing the offer of the museum as a hub for local history and heritage.”

She added that the museum and the City Central Library are located next to each other, which will “make the move more cost-effective and efficient than moving elsewhere”.

£18m refurbishment for Hereford Museum and Art Gallery

06 Jul 2022

Herefordshire Council has agreed to invest £8m of capital funding for the complete refurbishment of Hereford Museum and Art Gallery. 

A further £500,000 will be allotted to help relocate Hereford Library to a renovated Maylord Orchards centre.

The funding will be awarded in addition to £8m from Stronger Towns and £2m from another fund, bringing the total budget for the museum refurbishment to £18m, with a further £3.5m allocated for the relocation and renovation of the library. 

The new Library and Learning Resource Centre will provide rentable space for organisations including the council’s adult learning services and health and wellbeing clinics.

“I’m delighted cabinet members reached agreement on these two significant proposals for Herefordshire,” councillor Gemma Davies told Gloucestershire Live.

“Our investment in cultural services is so important to support local people and adds exciting destinations and support for both residents and tourists.”

She said that the new museum is expected to attract around £2.5m annually to the local economy.

“These projects represent good value for money for the people of Herefordshire and put culture at the very heart of our city’s future,” she said.

Royal Cornwall Museum at risk of closure

06 Jul 2022

The Royal Cornwall Museum is at risk of closure after Cornwall Council rejected its funding bid.

The local authority received 51 applications for arts and culture funding, totalling just under £7m, but its budget for culture and the arts over the next four years is £1,868,000. The decision means the museum in Truro is the only county museum in the UK that doesn’t receive local authority funding, its directors said.

The museum houses a significant archive of local mining history and materials, as well as the Courtney Library and Archive. 

“This decision will directly lead to the imminent closure of Royal Cornwall Museum and the Courtney Library”, the museum's directors said in a statement, describing it as “the showcase for Cornish heritage”.

“We are still in the process of understanding why, and the decision is even more disappointing considering the great successes we have had over the past two years,” they added. 

“The museum plays an important part in the vitality of Truro city centre and tells the story of Cornwall’s unique heritage and culture.”

The museum has faced financial difficulties in previous years. It closed for eight months in January 2020, citing a “challenging funding climate”.

Carol Mould, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for neighbourhoods, told Cornwall Live that a priority was to “encourage vibrant, supportive communities where people help each other live well”, a goal that can be facilitated by “the great wealth of culture and creativity that is synonymous with Cornwall”. 

She added that that council hopes to work with organisations that were unsuccessful in their funding bids “to unlock other potential funding opportunities from partner organisations in the future”.

New fund targets innovation in heritage sector

05 Jul 2022

The Heritage Innovation Fund will offer a combination of financial support and advice to help organisations meet the workforce challenges faced by the heritage sector.


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