Museum curators receive £200,000 to boost research

  • 7 March 2019

Seven curators are named as the first fellows to benefit from the Headley Fellowships with Art Fund, a new funding programme which gives curators the time and resources to pursue in-depth research.

Top (l-r): Joanne Anderson, Subhadra Das, Dan Hicks, Margaret Maitland, Bryan Sitch, Karen Logan, Adam Smith

Today we announced the first recipients of funding through the Headley Fellowships with Art Fund, a new programme which gives curators the opportunity to further develop specialist knowledge relating to the collections in their care.

Launched in July 2018 by The Headley Trust and Art Fund, the programme will provide £600,000 over the next three years to UK curators to realise ideas for engaging audiences as well as to broker new relationships and share knowledge with museums and peers across the country.

The fellowships enable curators to take time away from their day-to-day responsibilities to embark on a period of in-depth research into their museum’s collection, with funding provided to backfill their post either full-time for six months or part-time for a year.

The scheme responds to research published by Art Fund in 2017 which found that almost three-quarters of museum curators (72%) spent less than 15% of their time on collections research.

The first fellows will embark on their projects throughout 2019 with outcomes expected starting in October. Anticipated outcomes from the projects include exhibitions, redisplay of objects, books and/or learning programmes.

The seven curators selected as the first recipients and their projects are as follows:

• Joanne Anderson, assistant keeper of archaeology, Great North Museum: Hancock – researching the museum’s collection of Native North American art (project dates: April – October 2019)

• Subhadra Das, curator, UCL Culture – decolonising university science collections (April – October 2019)

• Dan Hicks, curator of archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford – researching the untold colonial histories in the Pitt Rivers collection (April 2019 – March 2020)

• Karen Logan, curator of history, Ulster Museum, Belfast – curating The Troubles and community history in Northern Ireland (April 2019 – March 2020)

• Margaret Maitland, senior curator, ancient Mediterranean, National Museums Scotland – researching and celebrating Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind and his contributions to Egyptology (June – December 2019)

• Bryan Sitch, deputy head of collections, Manchester Museum – creating a new gallery of Chinese culture (February – November 2019)

• Adam Smith, curator of natural sciences, Nottingham City Council – researching and displaying the museum’s nationally significant herbarium collection (April – November 2020)

Rob Bell, director of The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, said: ‘It is vitally important that curators remain at the vanguard of our museums both in their understanding of museum collections and how they share that knowledge with peers and audiences.

‘We are pleased to support these seven curators through the Headley Fellowships with Art Fund, giving them the time and support to explore, engage and further understand the brilliant collections that their museums hold.’

Stephen Deuchar, director, Art Fund, said: ‘The roles and responsibilities of the curator today are broadening all the time – in many museums there are greater public expectations than ever before but fewer staff available to meet them. Time to develop and enhance specialist curatorial skills and knowledge can by consequence be very constrained, and as we look to the future we must be mindful of what may be lost to museums in this process.

‘We know that most curators meanwhile brim with ideas around their collections and would dearly love more opportunity to deepen and extend their knowledge about the art and objects in their care; so we are truly delighted to be working with The Headley Trust to make these ambitions a reality.’