11 curators share £300,000 through Headley Fellowships and Art Fund

Image: Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, September 2021

The capital will be used to provide funding to back-fill curators’ posts while they commit to preserve and share their research.

The Headley Trust and Art Fund have revealed eleven new recipients of Headley Fellowships, which are intended to give curators time away from their day-to-day responsibilities to focus on research.

A total of £302,500 has been awarded in the third round of the programme, part of a £600,000 funding initiative created in 2018 to preserve and share the curatorial skills and knowledge at risk in the face of funding cuts.

The capital is designed to provide funding to back-fill curators’ posts for up to six months, while also providing them with up to £4,000 to support professional development, and fund other costs, and up to £3,500 to support sharing the knowledge gained with other curators nationally and with audiences.

These public outcomes include organising exhibitions and digitising collections.

Jenny Waldman, Art Fund director, said supporting the development of curators’ skills and growing expertise in museums is “key to deepening knowledge around UK collections, and a core part of Art Fund’s charitable programme.”

This round’s awarded fellows and their projects are:

Jack Ashby, Assistant Director, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

Researching the history of the Australian mammals collection, exploring the human stories of how collectors worked in the past to shed light on the links between natural history and colonial history, and to highlight previously little-known figures who contributed expertise, such as women and Indigenous collectors.

Rachel Atherton, Co-production Curator, Derby Museums

Researching Derby Museums’ Egyptology collection, with the aim of enabling the museum to investigate and challenge traditionally told histories of ancient Egypt.

Bret Gaunt, Project Officer, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Buxton

Restitution of Native American and First Nations objects acquired by the museum as part of a transfer of material from the Derbyshire School Library Service, including fully researching the artefacts and showcasing them at the museum.

Tehmina Goskar, Director & Curator, Curatorial Research Centre, Helston

Goskar will be seconded to the Cornish Life, Helston for the Headley Fellowship, examining the history of the museum’s collections, charting the impact of collecting turning-points and examining ethical issues, while developing a toolkit for the sector. The project also includes the co-curation of an exhibition in Camborne to share the collections of the former Camborne Museum with local audiences.

Dominique Heyse-Moore, Head of Collections and Exhibitions, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Researching and reinterpreting the museum’s “world textile” collection, aiming to tell a genuinely global story of textiles at the Whitworth.

Frances Houston, Curator, Scottish Crannog Centre

Researching Early Iron Age pottery, examining two pottery assemblages, both dated c.500BC but with differences in fabric, quality and decoration, that have never been catalogued, examined or displayed before, and creating a new museum display around them.

Kathleen Lawther, Freelance curator, Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent

Museum Makers, a project using the museum’s archive and photographic collections to research and tell the stories of the people who made the museum’s natural history and ethnographic collections possible, aiming to create a digital record of previously marginalised museum makers.

Alex Patterson, Assistant Curator of Fine Art, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Decolonising the Sculpture Collection. This project will on focus on key artists working from the mid-18th to the late-19th century, including the sculptor John Gibson (1790-1866). By working with Liverpool’s Black and Minority Ethnic communities and conducting vital new research, it will transform how the collection is interpretated and address the erasure and absence of Liverpool’s history relating to slavery, empire and colonialism in the gallery’s collection.

Adrian Plau, Wellcome Collection, London

Building a model for responsible repatriation by cataloguing and researching provenance of the museum’s Jain manuscript collection from South Asia.

Fiona Poole, Senior Curator, York Castle Museum

Researching the museum’s collection of objects relating to York’s main confectionery businesses, unpicking the human stories behind the museum’s holdings by researching previously recorded oral testimonies, archives, and objects.

Kathryn Warburton, Curator, Macclesfield Silk Museum

Machines and Memories: 20th Century Industrial Silk Machinery, a project to reinvigorate a collection of Macclesfield’s 20th Century Silk Machinery, uncovering hidden stories relating to the machines’ industrial impact and the lives of people who operated them.

Since its launch in, the programme has supported 22 curators to pursue projects including researching The Troubles and community history in Northern Ireland, redisplaying Nottingham Natural History Museum’s collections to tell stories about climate change, and resulting in exhibitions like the 2019 Displays of Power at Grant Museum of Zoology, which was shortlisted for a Museums + Heritage Award in 2020.