Museums Galleries Scotland invests £600,000 towards 15 new projects

By Adrian Murphy. Main Image: Biggar Museum in the Highlands has been awarded £28,663 through the Museums Galleries Scotland Museum Development Fund

Museums from Gairloch to Glasgow will benefit from Museums Galleries Scotland’s Museum Development Fund that will kick start 15 projects and create new posts in curatorship, learning and engagement

Museums Galleries Scotland has announced new funding for 15 projects that will create new roles in museums and improve the way collections are stored and cared for.

Museums Galleries Scotland is the National Development Body for museums and galleries in Scotland and offers strategic development support to the sector. As part of the new funding Dumfries and Galloway Council has been awarded £60,000 that will enable it to display the Kirkcudbright Artists Collection in a permanent exhibition space in the new Kirkcudbright Art Gallery. The Collection has Nationally Significant status, and includes over 300 works of fine art, and some 80 works of decorative art and craftwork, connected with the development of the town as an artists’ centre. Highlights of the collection, much of which is currently in storage, include paintings by Edward Atkinson Hornel, Charles Oppenheimer and Samuel Peploe.

Kirkcudbright Town Hall is being transformed into an art gallery. Photograph © Copyright Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Andy Ferguson, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council Communities Directorate said: “The Kirkcudbright Artists Collection sits at the core of our new Gallery opening in Kirkcudbright in the spring of 2018, and this grant will aid the essential work in getting this important collection out on public display. Dumfries and Galloway Council is very proud of its heritage and historic collections and we are delighted that the recognition fund has shown its support so generously.”

Also being awarded £60,000 is the University of Glasgow to conserve and interpret William Hunter’s plaster casts of the Gravid Uterus for new audiences. This MGS funded project will conserve and research ten 18th-century plaster casts of a dissected pregnant uterus, which were made for the Hunterian’s founder William Hunter but are currently in a poor state of conservation. The project will allow the plaster casts to be put on public display for the first time and form the centre of a major international exhibition at The Hunterian in 2018 that will be subsequently loaned to the Yale Centre for British Art in 2019. They will also form a part of the new MSc in Museum Education due to launch in September 2017.

Smaller grants have also been awarded such as the £28,663 to the Biggar Museum Trust to improve sustainability. Thanks to MGS funding, the newly re-opened Biggar Museum, winner of the Fundraiser of the Year Award at the 2016 Museums + Heritage Awards for Excellence, will be able to install voltaic solar panels on its roof, generating renewable electricity for the building. They will also fit out two outbuildings as climate-controlled collections storage. The project will save the museum money, reduce their carbon footprint, and protect their collections for the future.

Gravid Uterus - Anatomical Specimen. This photo was taken as part of Britain Loves Wikipedia at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in February 2010 by Dave Russ.

Through the Museum Development Fund, MGS distributes funding from the general funding grant from the Scottish Government as well as the ring fenced Recognition and Capital grants.

“MGS is pleased to be supporting projects that will contribute to the long-term sustainability and resilience of these museums,” said Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland. “The awardees have demonstrated a real commitment to enterprise, skills development, and improving their offering and profile for future visitors.”

Vocational Skills Fund

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) has also been granted £100,000 for a new Vocational Skills Fund for Scotland’s museum sector earlier this month. The fund is being established to make work-based learning in museums more available at all levels, from managers to those just setting out on their career.

For many years, recruitment in museums and galleries has focused on university qualifications with 88 per cent of the current workforce possessing a degree, and 59 per cent also holding a post graduate qualification. As a result, MSG say the sector’s workforce could be more diverse, and museums are missing out on potential talent. The body believes that museums, and the heritage sector more widely, are now waking up to the fact that welcoming alternative entry routes into the sector could help to deliver employees with the experience-led skills and knowledge to move into leadership roles in challenging times with reducing public funding.

Through this new fund, MGS aims to breathe life into the vocational framework for the sector, creating a new career path that includes work-based qualifications such as SVQs. The fund will increase the accessibility of these courses and qualifications by funding measures such as training new assessors and creating new assessment centres.

“This fund represents an excellent effort to provide an alternative route into museums work and address the shaping of the current and future workforce of our cultural industry,” said Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. “I am confident this will help many to develop useful experience-led skills and pave their way into leadership roles. The Scottish Government remains committed to widening access to the arts and cultural sector through the creation of work-based career paths that will enable more people in Scotland to develop their skills for the future.”

Museum Development Fund Round Two

The second round of Museums Galleries Scotland’s Museum Development Fund for 2017 is now open with a closing date of October 13 and an award date of mid-December. Applications can be made by registering at MGS Online.