Global concerns

Eleanor Mills, 10.07.2018
Why museums should keep applying for EU funding
The University Museums Group Conference commenced last Tuesday, 3 July, in Cambridge, with the theme “Foreign Exchange?” at its heart.

With a clear leaning towards the worrisome event of Brexit and potential loss of funding streams available to museums, the conference also focused on how university museums are so key in progressing research and presenting findings to the public, a luxury that most museums no longer have.

One of the most captivating speakers was Laura Carletti, who works in research operations at the University of Cambridge and spoke on the topic of European funding available to museums and gave a well-rounded outlook of what funding might remain available post-Brexit (that is, if it’s still happening, given current political events).

Carletti clearly broke down the different applications, presented meaningful graphs, explained some of the less accessible funding clauses well and made what is often perceived as inaccessible easy to comprehend. 

Carletti also highlighted the Horizon 2020 fund available to academic and non-academic sectors - the deadline will be in September and museums are welcome to apply.

She ended her presentation with a call to arms: museums should apply for European funding so the government can prove that it’s worth pursuing the current ties that we have and funding opportunities don’t reduce further.

Another highlight of the conference was a keynote by Wayne Modest, the head of the Research Centre for Material Culture, National Museum of Ethnology, in Leiden, Holland. 

Suggesting that research is urgent, now more than ever, Modest spoke eloquently about how research is intrinsic to great exhibitions, but the relationship should also work vice versa. He works with students in Leiden and asks them to ask questions, rather than present answers, so his methodology is to replicate this approach when creating an exhibition.

Daniel Pett, the head of IT and digital at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, spoke about an online crowdsourcing platform called Micropasts, which could help many museums with research. The site allows researchers to post what you need to be researched, and via the huge audience that checks the site, elements of research can be fulfilled quickly, efficiently and accurately. Pett said that the program can also help with 3D modelling for interactives, and transcribing texts.

The penultimate speaker was Paul Smith, the director of Oxford University Museum of Natural History, who presented the argument that museums need to lead the way in getting children interested in STEM subjects, particularly kids with lower socieoeconomic status. Smith presented and explained readable statistics and excellent case studies, most notably from Brazil.

This was the Pro Musit, a travelling museum run by Museu de Ciencias e Tecnologia in Rio de Janeiro. Unlike any other pop-up museum, the Pro Musit bus travels around Brazil and opens up to size of football pitch. So far, it has reached 3,000 schools. And a sister program has a fleet of buses that brings kids to the Museu de Ciencias e Technologia.

Altogether, the UMG conference was a very enlightening day. I can’t mention all the speakers and their topics here, but would recommend that museums check what funding they could apply for sooner rather than later, including:

• The Art Fund’s Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants
• The Art Fund will also be launching new curatorial fellowships on 16 July, with an application deadline of end of October
• ICOM UK has travel bursaries available for individuals with applications due by 24 September and up to £1,500 available per organisation. They will prioritise non-national museums. There is also money rolling over from the previous round.

The day rounded off with a trip to the recently reopened and revamped Kettle’s Yard, which is always a delight. I’m always disappointed seeing yet more Antony Gormley though, but maybe other people haven’t tired of his work yet?

And last but not least, we were given a tour of the wonderful new Museum of Zoology, well worth a visit. There’s too much to say here though, so I’ll write another blog about this next week, and look out for our review in the October issue of Museums Journal.


We said ICOM had travel bursaries for individuals in museums, in fact it is ICOM UK. The piece has been updated to reflect this.


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12.07.2018, 10:24
ICOM UK (rather than ICOM ) is offer Travel Grants for UK museum professionals to undertake international visits to develop mutually beneficial projects and partnerships.
Here is the correct link to the ICOM UK - British Council Travel Grant Scheme: