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Art Fund awards Reimagine grants to museums as part of pandemic recovery

Ely Museum is collaborating with a local secondary school to produce engaging displays

Ely Museum, which will collaborate with a local secondary school to produce engaging displays. © Philip Durrant

The Art Fund has awarded £658,331 in the first round of £2 million Reimagine grants for 2021 to support 22 UK museums, galleries, historic houses, trusts and professional networks.

The Reimagine grants will support large and small and help organisations build expertise, capacity, connections and access as they navigate their way to recovery from the pandemic.

Museums often produce what seem like miracles on a shoestring, but they need enhanced resources

They aim to increase creativity and stability in the sector with funding provided for projects that enable experimentation, deepen engagement with diverse audiences, and result in greater expertise. Areas of priority for the programme are collections, digital, engagement and the workforce.

Several projects from this round will focus on families, schools and young people and engaging young people in the community will be at the heart of a project at Ely Museum, which will use a £39,548 grant to collaborate with a local secondary school to produced work that will be displayed at the museum.

Children’s exhibition

The Vindolanda fort in Hexham will use a grant of £24,300 to create an online children’s exhibition Digital Bibliographies in partnership with Newcastle University and Creative Assembly for seven to 11-year-olds. And digitising the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum collection will use a £9,585 grant to provide a valuable resource for outreach to schools and other community groups.

The Art Find said 71 applications were received in this first round with a total ask of £1.9m demonstrating the continued level of support needed in the sector.

“Art Fund’s new Reimagine grants will allow many more museums to understand, and work deeply with, their communities,” Art Fund’s director Jenny Waldman said. “Museums often produce what seem like miracles on a shoestring, but they need enhanced resources – such as in digital, specialist support and staffing – to truly build for the future. We are proud to support these impressive projects, something we could not have done without the exceptional generosity of our members and donors.”

Deepening expertise

Expertise will be deepened through several major projects including an initiative led by National Museums Liverpool to create a new the first of its kind national network. A grant of £11,000 will allow the project to share current discourse and create a narrative thread to fully represent slavery and its legacies in the UK.  

Another project: Re-imagining Disability Collections, is a partnership involving nine museums led by Screen South/Accentuate. A £49,915 grant will see them explore new co-production methodologies with Disability Heritage Co-production Groups to re-imagine and re-interpret collections through a disability lens.

Turner Prize nominees Project Art Works are a collective of neurodivergent artists and activists

Project Art Works, a collective of neurodivergent artists and activists who have been nominated for the Turner Prize this year, have been awarded £40,000 to expand its programmes raising awareness in the cultural and care sectors.

The resonance of place for different communities will also be explored at Norton Priory Museum and Gardens who received a £43,500 grant. Once a centre for medieval contemplation and spirituality Norton Priory Museum will revisit its Augustinian roots to provide a 21st century place for well-being and mindfulness.

Minecraft Musuem

The Story Museum will use a £45,995 grant to create a ‘Young Curators: Minecraft Museum’ as part of a co-curation project with young people aged 14-18. The Story Museum and participants will exchange skills in curation and narrative gaming, using the collection as inspiration to create a digital version of the Enchanted Library gallery, along with three new digital story realms in Minecraft. These will be added to the collection and participants will design and host events for the public.

The funding is being made available in direct response to Art Fund’s survey of over 300 Museum Directors in the UK, published in May 2021 and reflects the demand there is for Art Fund support.

Making an impact at a critical time

In response to this and because the national charity wanted to make an impact at a critical time, Art Fund’s Together for Museums campaign in 2020/21 raised over £1.1m with the support from 4,000 funders, including the Headley Trust. This, together with the ongoing support of members, Art Partners, donors and legacy gifts, make the Reimagine grants possible. Alongside this, Art Fund continues to provide grants for acquisitions and professional development.

The second round of grants will be announced in November.

The deadline for submissions for the third and final round of 2021 Reimagine grants is 11 October and these will be announced in December. Organisations can apply for support of between £5,000 and £50,000.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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