Collecting Cultures: back by popular demand!

Today, HLF has announced a £5m funding package to a range of museums, libraries and archives across the UK. Through HLF’s Collecting Cultures programme, 23 organisations, from Glasgow to Brighton, will be able to add to their core collections through strategic purchases.

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said: “Collecting Cultures is unique: HLF is the only funding body that currently offers this type of advance funding support for museums, libraries and archives. Building on past success, a second incarnation of the initiative is back by popular demand.

“This upfront investment of £5m will enable a diverse range of collections, including children’s literature, robotics, fashion, football and the Black art movement, to be strengthened and enlivened. Curators will be able to ‘go shopping’ with their HLF grant, researching to identify works of art, images and objects that they would like to purchase over the five-year life span of their Collecting Cultures project.”

Whilst the majority of successful applicants are museums / galleries, there are also four archives and one library in the batch. Highlights of plans include: developing a collection on polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition; football-related art from the post-war period such as poster art and advertising media; material illustrating Scotland’s textile industry from the 1800s onwards; and the acquisition of archaeological artefacts from a number of eras such as the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Saxons, Vikings and Romans.

The Rt Hon Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister, said: “I’m delighted to see that this fantastic and successful initiative is back. Collecting Cultures is a wonderful opportunity for organisations to further enrich their collections and it’s great to see plans for really fascinating additions to museums, libraries and archives across the country.

We have a vast array of rich and diverse cultural institutions in the UK and its funds like this one that will ensure they have the support to grow from strength to strength.”

The first Collecting Cultures - 2008
Back in 2008, Collecting Cultures awards enabled over 2,000 objects to be bought by museums and galleries across the UK. Examples include:

  • A prosthetic leg from the First World War, acquired by a partnership of museums in Fermanagh, Derry and Enniskillen, as part of a project to collect items reflecting the turbulent history of 1910-1930
  • A Land Rover Series 1, acquired by the Museum of English Rural Life, to illustrate the theme of rural Englishness in the 20th century
  • An iconic image of the miner’s strike by internationally-renowned photographer Don McCullin, acquired as part of the National Coal Mining Museum’s project to diversify its collections which reflect local community and industrial life

Carole Souter added: “Our first Collecting Cultures tranche of grants made a real difference to how organisations approached and planned their long-term collecting strategies. Now, five years on we’re pleased to be able help a much wider range of applicants with an increased budget to encourage better managed collections, curatorial skills, research and increased public involvement.”

Key to the success of the programme is the opportunity for curators to actively seek new additions to their collections rather than wait for items to come to auction.

Today’s 23 successful Collecting Cultures projects are (more detailed descriptions available on request):

East Midlands

  • The National Trust, Exploring Childhoods (£228,900)

East of England

  • Scott Polar Research Institute, By Endurance We Conquer: the Shackleton Project (£500,000)
  • Fry Art Gallery Society, The Fry Going Forward (£199,000)


  • The Cartoon Museum, Comic Creators (£164,300)
  • Museum of London, Experimental Photography in London 1970-204 (£95,900)
  • Science Museum, A New Collecting Initiative Targeting 600 Years of Mechanism Created in Lifelike Form (£100,000)
  • Autograph ABP, Building Autograph ABP’s Collection of Photography, Expanding the Narratives on Black Representation (£96,800)

North East

  • Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books, Collecting British Children’s Literature; Strategic Acquisitions to Develop the Seven Stories Collection (£341,500)

North West

  • Manchester Art Gallery, From Catwalk to High Street (£307,300)
  • Fusilier Museum, Enriching the Collection (£60,000)
  • National Museums Liverpool, The International Slavery Museum’s Transatlantic and Contemporary Slavery Collecting Project (£225,000)
  • People’s History Museum, Voting for Change – 150 years of Radical Movements for Democracy, 1819 to 1969 (£95,000)
  • National Football Museum, The Art of Football (£199,900)

Northern Ireland

  • National Museums Northern Ireland, Collecting the Troubles and Beyond (£370,000)


  • University of Glasgow Archive Services, Darning Scotland’s Textile Collections: Recording, Identifying and Expanding Knowledge about Scotland’s Textile Heritage (£91,800)
  • Scottish Maritime Museum, SMMart: Enriching the Imagery of Scotland’s Maritime Heritage (£412,000)

South East

  • Royal Pavilion Museums Brighton and Hove, Fashioning Africa (£242,300)
  • Jane Austen House Museum, Jane Austen Bicentenary Collections Project (£191,600)

South West

  • Wiltshire Council, Creative Wiltshire and Swindon (£178,000)


  • Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (in partnership with The Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales), Saving Treasures, Telling Stories (£349,000)

West Midlands

  • Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Artists of the Black Movement in Britain 1979-1984 (£183,000)
  • The Birmingham Museums Trust, Representing Birmingham (£389,100)

Yorkshire and Humber

  • The Royal Armouries, Arms and Armour of Popular Culture (£98,000)

Notes to editors
This is the second time HLF has run Collecting Cultures, an initiative to support museums, libraries and archives in developing their collections through strategic acquisition projects. Grantees plan and deliver programmes of targeted purchase whilst developing staff skills and engaging a wider range of people with their collections.

To date, HLF has invested a third of its total commitment - £2billion - to transforming museums, libraries and archives.

Acquisitions must be at least 10 years-old to be eligible for HLF support.

The Collecting Cultures programme is now closed for applications.

Further information
Katie Owen, HLF press office, on 020 7591 6036, or mobile: 07973 613 820.

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