22 January 2019
A report published today by John Ellerman Foundation provides extensive evidence that investment in curatorial skills in museums and galleries has impact well beyond the collections team, by helping to build organisations’ resilience, wider reputation and profile.
The report analyses grants made through the Foundation’s Museums and Galleries Fund, which has supported 30 organisations with grants totalling almost £3m since its launch in 2014.
John Ellerman Foundation created the Museums and Galleries Fund to support curatorial skills, an area that has lacked investment for some time, with a particular focus on organisations outside London. The grants have enabled new curators to enter the sector, bringing fresh perspectives, whilst helping to safeguard existing provision and providing incumbent curators with opportunities for skills development and growth.
Based on evaluation throughout the programme, the report also describes how the grants have had a ‘multiplier effect’ beyond individual curators and their immediate teams. It includes case studies which show how curatorial investment has strengthened institutions as a whole and raised their profile more widely.
Support for skills development, including invisible, ‘under the bonnet’ activities such as collections’ maintenance and conservation, has made a big difference to organisational resilience and confidence, and enhanced institutions’ reputation and external relations.
The examples in the report show concrete benefits to the quality of collections, fundraising and community engagement, among other areas.
The report’s lead author, Virginia Tandy, commented:
“The impact of support for curatorial skills has had a profound effect on the organisations we have worked with. Where this difference is most felt, however, is in communities – through high-quality exhibitions for the public, and stronger relationships between institutions, local communities and volunteers. We have seen how this translates into greater civic pride and the protection of cultural assets for the public.”
John Ellerman Foundation Director, Nicola Pollock, commented:
“We set up the Museums and Galleries Fund as an experiment, focusing on support for curatorial skills development in museums and galleries outside London. Targeting funding at the heart of a museum or gallery is in tune with our overall emphasis on supporting core costs; through this we also aimed to address the effects of austerity and rebalance investment towards the institution’s central assets. Demand has been high which, with the learning so far, has confirmed the value of investing in this aspect of museum life. It has brought benefits beyond those originally expected.”
The Foundation plans to convene an event to further disseminate the findings and discuss future directions, challenges and support for collections and curatorial skills in the Spring.