Dcms/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund a public-Private Partnership (2002-2010)

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DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund
A Public-Private Partnership (2002-2010)

DCMS aims to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, support the pursuit of excellence, and champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries.

The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that awards grants to support excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education and the arts & humanities.


Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and

Creative Industries, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive, the Wolfson Foundation

The DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries

Improvement Fund

Case Studies

Beamish, the North of England Open Air Museum

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Harris Museum & Art Gallery
National Maritime Museum
Museum of London
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
The Royal Armouries, Leeds
Norfolk Museums Service

Appendix A

Breakdown of awards
Appendix B

Alphabetical list of institutions which have received awards

This publication celebrates eight years of the work of the DCMS/Wolfson Fund and its investment in projects which have made a real difference to displays, interpretation and public access in museums and galleries throughout England.
The projects featured here are only a selection from the many awards which have been made since 2002, but they show the range of collections that the Fund has supported, and the ways in which new displays bring objects and their histories to life for visitors. These projects have also made the experience of visiting museums and galleries more welcoming, enjoyable and accessible for everyone.
We know from the museums and galleries themselves that DCMS/Wolfson awards can help to unlock other sources of funding, and that over a period of years, they can make a significant impact on the public face of an institution. Most importantly, the DCMS/Wolfson Fund shows that the public sector and a private philanthropic charity can work together to deliver tangible benefits for the public, in this case by helping improve the quality of their visit to a museum.
This publication records the second cycle of the Fund’s work during 2002-10. I am very pleased that funding is now in place to enable a third cycle during 2011-15 and look forward to the continuing partnership between DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation. I should also like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Trustees and Staff of the Wolfson Foundation for their enduring support for museums and for public life.
It is with sadness we note that Lord Wolfson, a key figure in the Foundation’s history and Chairman since 1972, passed away at the end of the period covered by this report.
Ed Vaizey MP

Minister for Culture, Communications and

Creative Industries

The achievement of the DCMS/Wolfson Fund has been significant. The programme has spanned an eight-year period with a total investment of £28 million. Each project has aimed to improve the experience of the visitor. For some organisations, especially the smaller ones, the overall impact of funding has been transformative.

Perhaps above all the programme’s hallmark has been partnership. It is a rare example of joint decision-making between a philanthropic charity and the public sector: with recommendations of the expert Panel made to the Trustees of the Wolfson Foundation and Government Ministers. That the programme has worked so efficiently is due in no small part to the administrators at DCMS and the expert Panel, to whom we extend our gratitude.
The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that aims to support excellence, particularly in underfunded areas, and the programme has sat neatly within the Foundation’s wider strategy. It emphasised access to this country’s outstanding, designated collections. It focused on a key area – refurbishment work – relatively neglected by funders (and perhaps even viewed as unglamorous). And the funds have helped to act as a catalyst, drawing in other monies from national and local sources. Indeed the requirement to raise at least a third of the project costs from other funders was a condition of the programme across all eight years.
The proof of any investment is, of course, the ‘return’. The assessment provided across the following pages shows the success of the programme in the short-term, and we hope that the benefits will be felt by visitors to these wonderful institutions for many years to come.
We are delighted that, building on this success, we are in a position to announce the continuation of the DCMS/Wolfson Fund.
Paul Ramsbottom

Chief Executive, Wolfson Foundation

The DCMS/Wolfson Museums and

Galleries Improvement Fund

The DCMS/Wolfson Fund was originally set up in 1990 and ran for five years, distributing £19 million to over 200 projects across England. The current incarnation of the Fund began in 2002 and has awarded £28 million to 245 projects over an eight- year period. This publication concentrates on the work of the Fund since 2002, and includes case studies from a variety of museums and galleries across England, which provide further insight into what the Fund has helped to make possible.
The DCMS/Wolfson partnership has become an excellent example of what can be achieved when public funds are matched with private philanthropy. The Fund, financed equally by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Wolfson Foundation, has had a hugely positive impact on the museum community and it has become a much valued source of sustained funding.
The eighth and most recent round of DCMS/Wolfson awards was announced in August 2009 and the Fund was paused in 2010 to provide an opportunity for its work to be assessed. This evaluation showed that the Fund is highly regarded, and has enabled a wide range of museums to make capital improvements to their displays, enhance their educational facilities and provide greater accessibility to visitors. Awards from the Fund have also acted as a catalyst for further support, allowing institutions to approach successfully additional funders. This has been particularly helpful to a number of smaller museums who have noted that without their DCMS/Wolfson award, they would have found it difficult to secure additional support.
On 18 February 2011, Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries announced that DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation would each provide £4 million to enable the DCMS/Wolfson Fund to hold two bidding rounds in the 2011-15 spending period, each awarding £4 million.


The Panel of the DCMS/Wolfson Fund would like to thank all those who have assisted with the Fund and who have helped to make it such a success. During the eight-year lifespan of the current Fund, the following people were members of the Panel, alongside Government officials:
Hon Mrs Janet Wolfson de Botton CBE (Trustee, Wolfson Foundation)

Lord Quinton FBA (Trustee, Wolfson Foundation)

Lord Quirk CBE FBA (Trustee, Wolfson Foundation)

Dr Victoria Harrison (previous Chief Executive, Wolfson Foundation) Paul Ramsbottom (current Chief Executive, Wolfson Foundation) Stuart Davies (Resource)

Hedley Swain (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) Sue Wilkinson (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) Giles Waterfield (External Advisor)
Purpose and Procedure
The purpose of the Fund has been to:

  • renovate and improve the display of exhibits in galleries and exhibition spaces;

  • make improvements to public spaces and access to the collection;

  • make physical improvements to access and facilities for disabled visitors;

  • make physical improvements to collection interpretation;

  • make improvements to environmental controls in public access spaces and galleries.

Applications from eligible museums and galleries were considered by the Fund’s Panel, comprising representatives of the Wolfson Foundation, DCMS, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and an external advisor. The Panel’s recommendations were then presented to the Trustees of the Wolfson Foundation at one of their full Trustee meetings, and to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for a final decision.

Beamish, the North of England

Open Air Museum

Period Lamp Cabin and Colliery Yard Improvements

DCMS/Wolfson Fund grants:

£40,000 (Yard Works)

£145,000 (Lamp Cabin)
Year of grants:

2006-7 (Yard Works)

2007-8 (Lamp Cabin)
Other funders:

- One North East

- European Regional Development Fund

- Heritage Lottery Fund

- Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

- Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material Fund (PRISM)

- K Hoole Trust

- Beamish Development Trust

- Friends of Beamish Museum

- Banks Foundation

- Charles Hayward Trust

The Colliery Village at Beamish is built around the recreation of a typical North East England coal mine in the early 1900s. The DCMS/Wolfson Fund has enabled the Museum to improve dramatically the working exhibits in this village, helping Beamish transform the way it brings the social history of the northern pit communities to life for audiences today.

A grant of £145,000 allowed the Museum to move valuable mining lamp collections out of store and into a working Lamp Cabin exhibit in the Open Air Museum. Visitors are now able to understand the important role of safety lamps in pit community life. Within the Cabin, visitors first discover how the lamps were cleaned, maintained and lit before going underground to experience a real drift mine.
A second grant from the Fund, totalling £40,000, also enabled the Museum to refurbish its working Pit Yard, repairing rail track that passes underneath a reconstructed pit head, to increase steam locomotive performances for visitors.
The Museum has stated that these improvements would not have been possible without support from the DCMS/Wolfson Fund. As well as making physical improvements, allowing increased accessibility to the Village site and its collections, the grant has helped the Museum improve its link to former pit communities throughout the North. Through the development of the exhibitions within the Colliery Village, the Museum is now able to demonstrate its relevance to an audience that does not typically visit museums, helping them to understand important events in the history of their community. For example, in February 2009,

5,000 visitors came from the nearby community of Stanley to commemorate the centenary of the Stanley Pit Disaster. The Disaster, which killed 168 men and boys, played a pivotal role in the development of the miners’ safety lamp. The new Cabin played a central role in this ceremony.

The Imperial War

Museum London

The Imperial War Museum London was awarded £80,000 in 2007-8 to create two new temporary exhibition galleries. The illustration shows My Boy Jack, an exhibition about Rudyard Kipling’s only son John, killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915, which ran from 6 November 2007-24 February 2008.

Merseyside Maritime Museum

Visitors reminisce at Spirit of the Blitz in the Merseyside Maritime Museum’s new Special Exhibitions Suite, for which National Museums Liverpool received £200,000 in 2002-3.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

In 2002-3 the Oxford University Museum of Natural History received £165,000 for the refurbishment and redisplay of its Great Court and Arcades. © Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Birmingham Museum &

Art Gallery

Making Sense – The In Touch Gallery

DCMS/Wolfson Fund grant:

Year of grant:

Other funders:

- Birmingham City Council

- Renaissance West Midlands

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is home to one of the world’s finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art, as well as extensive collections of fine and applied art, social history, archaeology and ethnography.

A DCMS/Wolfson Fund award of £217,000 in 2004-5 enabled the Museum to improve and clarify the presentation of its art galleries and has helped engage visitors with its designated collections in a new and lasting way. Through the development of accessible, high quality displays, supported by the DCMS/Wolfson Fund, the Museum has been able to respond to visitor demands for more hands-on exhibits and learning opportunities within an attractive and fun environment. The In Touch Gallery is particularly aimed at families, first-time visitors with little knowledge of art, and disabled visitors who were all shown to respond more favourably to audio, audio- visual and tactile approaches.
Intended as an introduction to the Museum's art collection, this interactive gallery features a broad range of art forms including paintings, sculpture, costumes, textiles, jewellery, ceramics and also an impressive Japanese Samurai suit of armour. One of the centrepieces of the new gallery is a huge replica mountain inspired by Tobias Verhaecht’s painting, Orpheus Returning from the Underworld. This installation creates a significant ‘wow’ factor and allows visitors to literally

‘get into’ the picture. Visitors can also take advantage of a rare opportunity to touch original bronze busts by some of Britain’s most famous sculptors, including three works by Jacob Epstein. The busts have been specially conserved and treated so that they will not be damaged when gently handled.

In its first two years, the new gallery attracted over 175,000 visitors and ongoing evaluation of these numbers has indicated that 40-50% of these were visiting for the first time.
“Wonderfully interactive and thought provoking, thank you very much!”

A visitor comment

Harris Museum & Art Gallery

The Mrs French Scent Bottle Collection: Improving access, storage and interpretation

DCMS/Wolfson Fund grant:

Year of grant:

Other funders:

- Heritage Lottery Fund

- The Harris Trust

- Friends of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery

The Mrs French Scent Bottle Collection is the largest collection of its kind in Britain and one of the most important in the world. The collection was acquired by the Harris Museum & Art Gallery in 1964. It consists of 2,748 historic bottles, collected by Mrs French over her lifetime (1880-1964) – a passion which accelerated after the death of her only child in 1941. The items, made from ceramic, glass, silver and other materials, date mainly from the 1740s to the 1940s and offer a fascinating and inspirational diversity of colour, size and theme.
For many years, less than 20% of the scent bottle collection was on public display, leaving 80% in the Museum’s basement store. Access was by appointment only and was in an area not suitable for groups or wheelchair users.
The DCMS/Wolfson Fund award of £30,000 has enabled the Museum to display the collection in its entirety, with the highlights picked out in the tops of the display cases and the rest of the collection available for exploration in secure glazed

drawers underneath. The cases are at a height suitable for both the displayed and stored scent bottles to be seen easily by both wheelchair users and children. Interpretation has been improved and the Museum has reinvigorated its scent bottle tours which are taken by trained volunteers. Children’s tours have also been developed along a treasure hunt theme, enabling children to use torches and magnifying glasses to identify specific bottles and look at detailed designs.

In 2009-10 the Museum received over 245,000 visitors, a substantial increase on the 141,000 in 2005-6 when the original DCMS/Wolfson Fund application was made. Whilst this is due to a variety of factors, the Museum considers the vibrant new scent bottle displays to have contributed to attracting a considerable number of both new and repeat visitors.

“The DCMS/Wolfson Fund has enabled us to complete several successful projects which provide public benefits that we would have been unable to find funds for elsewhere.”

Harris Museum & Art Gallery

“It is often the smaller grants (say, £10,000 - £50,000) that are very valuable to us as they enable us to lever in other grants. ”

Harris Museum & Art Gallery

The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The Ashmolean Museum received £230,000 in 2008-9 for improvements to its Western Art Galleries.

© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Robert H N Ho Family Foundation Gallery of Asian Buddhist Sculpture was awarded £300,000 in 2007-8. © V&A Images

National Maritime Museum

The Atlantic Worlds Gallery

DCMS/Wolfson Fund grant:

Year of grant:

Other funders:

- The Museum

- Charitable organisations

- Other sponsors

The National Maritime Museum received £135,000 for its Atlantic Worlds Gallery in 2006-7. © National Maritime Museum
In 2006-7 the National Maritime Museum received a DCMS/Wolfson Fund grant of £135,000 towards the cases and lighting in their new permanent Atlantic Worlds Gallery. This Gallery tells the story of the exploration and navigation of the whole Atlantic Ocean, bringing Europeans into contact with Africa and the Americas, setting in motion a world-changing process of conquest and exploitation, trade and cultural change.

The Gallery supports the national initiative Understanding Slavery, of which the National Maritime Museum is the lead partner. This is a five-year national education project to promote and support the effective teaching of the history and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade in schools and communities through resources that fully reflect the many historical and contemporary perspectives on this major part of world history. The Understanding Slavery initiative has enabled the National Maritime Museum to work with teachers, educators and young people to develop new learning programmes and resources. The initiative has been characterised by close collaboration between curators and educators, exploring how the Museum’s slavery-related material can be explored and interpreted to inspire and inform a way of working with collections that is influenced by diverse audience perspectives.

Museum of London

Medieval London Gallery

DCMS/Wolfson Fund grant:

Year of grant:

Other funders:

- City of London Corporation

- City Livery Companies

- Other charitable trusts

Above: Children in front of Viking weapons in the Medieval London Gallery

© Museum of London

Right: Nun 1300 meets curator 2005

© Museum of London

The Museum of London was awarded a grant of £200,000 in 2003-4 towards the redevelopment of its Medieval London Gallery, which had not been refurbished since 1976.
The new Gallery opened in autumn 2005 and has enabled the Museum to display one of its most celebrated collections in an interesting and informative way. It has allowed the Museum to reflect the change in modern historical and archaeological research by taking a much broader view of the medieval period – from the end of the Roman period in around 410 AD to the early Tudors in 1558 AD. Within the Gallery the visitor can explore the Anglo-Saxon settlement of the 7th century, learn about Viking raids and the Black Death before investigating the 16th-century capital and the dramatic results of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.
With this project, the Museum realised its aim of displaying excavated material not seen by the public before, such as a reconstructed section of a Thames waterfront revetment found in Billingsgate. Over the last 30 years, major additions have been made to the medieval collections, particularly of small metalwork, from the activities of Thames mud larks (licensed metal-detectorists searching the Thames foreshore), and these are now on display.

For the first time the Museum has used captions especially designed for children, featuring cartoon figures. These have been a great success and the Museum has adopted these for its new Galleries of Modern London (also supported by the DCMS/Wolfson Fund and opened in May 2010). An immersive reconstruction of a Saxon house, replica costume for children to dress up in, and interactive games such as the Medieval Game of Life were also included in the redevelopment and have allowed the Museum to explore new ways of engaging young visitors.

The Tank Museum, Bovington
The Tank Museum, Bovington, was awarded £200,000 in 2008-9 towards the fit-out of their new 50,000 ft2 exhibition, The Tank Story. © The Tank Museum

The Courtauld Institute of Art

In 2004-5 the Courtauld Institute Gallery received £63,000 for their Prints and Drawings Study Room.

MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry)

MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) was awarded £148,000 in 2004-5 for the redisplay of its Power Hall. © MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry)

Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

- Making Good the Museum: Enhancing Access

- Cases for the most visited gallery in the Pitt Rivers Museum

- Making Good the Museum II: new display cases, orientation panels and seating

- Beware. You are entering the climate of foreign logic: communication, orientation and way-finding solutions

- Showcasing the Pitt Rivers: the Museum’s new entrance

- Lighting the Way: enhancing the collections’ visibility
DCMS/Wolfson Fund grants:

£100,000 (Making Good the Museum, 2002-3)

£36,800 (Cases for the most visited gallery, 2004-5)

£70,125 (Making Good the Museum II, 2005-6)

£30,000 (Communication, orientation and way finding, 2006-7)

£128,000 (New entrance, 2007-8)

£50,000 (Lighting the Way, 2009-10)
Other funders:

- Heritage Lottery Fund

- Private trusts and foundations

- Private sponsorship and donations

- The Museum and its Friends
The Pitt Rivers Museum has been successful in securing several grants from the DCMS/Wolfson Fund. This has enabled the Museum to carry out a comprehensive improvement of its galleries, focusing in particular on improved display cases, lighting and signage.
In the period covered by this report, the Museum has undertaken two major building projects – the construction of a 1,900m2 new extension, and the redevelopment of the

Museum's entrance. A number of the Museum’s applications to the Fund were tied into each of the projects in a different way, and the Museum acknowledges that the support provided by the Fund was crucial in allowing the two projects to be completed. In one instance, a bid to the Fund allowed the Museum to signpost the totality of the galleries and the new extension; in another, to outfit the new entrance platform with cases of the right size and quality. The Museum has stressed how helpful the continued availability of the Fund has been.

“...an outstanding and invaluable Fund...”

Michael O’Hanlon, Director, Pitt Rivers Museum

The Royal Armouries, Leeds

Hands on History

DCMS/Wolfson Fund grant:

Year of grant:

Other funders:


Hands on History at the Royal Armouries, Leeds © Board of Trustees of the Armouries

The Hands on History project, for which the Royal Armouries received a DCMS/Wolfson Fund award in 2005-6, was specifically aimed at finding a way to enable the Museum’s visitors to access and engage with its collections in a way that would enable them to appreciate what it must have been like to participate in some of the most important events in our history. The project was designed to allow

visitors to get close to the collection, without putting them in harm’s way.
The Hands on History areas within the War Gallery in Leeds opened in summer 2006 as part of a year of celebrations to mark the 10th birthday of the Museum. Since then they have been a permanent and popular feature of the Royal Armouries, giving visitors the chance to draw a bow and test their strength and skill compared to a master bowman as well as the opportunity to experience what a medieval jouster would have seen through his visor in the heat of the tournament. This has helped to promote access to the Museum’s collections, regardless of physical and intellectual barriers presented by disability, lack of English language or poor literacy skills.
The DCMS/Wolfson Fund award significantly helped the Museum to approach a new corporate partner for this project – HISTORY™ (previously the History Channel). Cash sponsorship was enhanced by an in-kind commitment to produce and edit AVs for Hands on History and this model has continued in future projects at all the Museum’s sites, with HISTORY™ becoming both a long-term corporate sponsor and a creative partner in the development of AVs for all major exhibitions and gallery projects.
The success of the redevelopment at Leeds led to the creation of the Hands on History Gallery within the White Tower at the Tower of London.
In new Royal Armouries’ capital projects – most notably the £3.5 million redevelopment of Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson (also supported in part by the DCMS/Wolfson Fund) – key principles behind Hands on History have been developed still further with new gallery interpretation. This focuses on the human stories that bring the collection to life for the visitor and uses visual, tactile and audio interpretation techniques, with objects placed outside glass cases wherever possible so that they can be touched.

The National Tramway Museum

The National Tramway Museum was awarded £150,000 in 2008-9 for a major redisplay and renovation of its Great Exhibition Hall. © National Tramway Museum

“The Gallery now is more user-friendly and far more attractive than it was before the refurbishment.”

Visitor, Graves Art Gallery

Graves Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield

Graves Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield, received £65,000 in 2006-7 and £126,000 in 2007-8 for phases I and II of its Rise and Shine project. This focused on improving the display spaces and access to the collections at the Graves Gallery. © Dan Sumption

Blists Hill Victorian Town

Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge, received £126,000 in 2008-9 for the creation of a new Victorian Post Office. © Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

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