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Funding boost for projects challenging traditional interpretations of collections

Funding boost for projects challenging traditional interpretations of collections

Three Scottish museum organisations will be re-examining their collections through a 21st century lens following investment from the national development body for Scotland’s museums. 

These exciting reinterpretations are amongst the twelve museum projects that have been given the green light for support in the latest round of investments, which cover a wide range of topics also including collections research, launching reminiscence sessions, and audience development.

Some museums will be looking afresh at how they tell the stories behind their items. There will be funding to improve the care and documentation of North American items, many of which are Indigenous in origin, at the University of Aberdeen, and the investment pot will support the development of an exhibition by Glasgow Life exploring the city's legacy of slavery. The University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum will work with a facilitation expert to find new, inclusive ways of interpreting contested collections that are sensitive to diverse viewpoints.

Lola Sánchez-Jáuregui, William Hunter Tercentenary Curator at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum, said:

“Receiving the award from Museum Galleries Scotland to develop the ‘Curating Discomfort’ project represents an exceptional opportunity for The Hunterian. We are living in the midst of agitated times, and museums have the responsibility to adopt more critical approaches to issues of identity, gender or colonial histories. In this context, the Hunterian wants to be an open space for dialogue and transparency, and this grant award will enable us to fund a series of initiatives to address these issues.”

Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life, said:

“Glasgow participated fully in the slavery economy, yet the journey of re-discovery and coming to terms with that participation is still in its infancy, and it has a long way to go yet.

“Our city changed as a result of slavery – the extraordinary wealth which Glasgow accumulated on the back of enslaved labour is embedded in the city we live in today. And by implication, so is the brutality, suffering and exploitation inflicted on the enslaved in the process. Legacies of all these things are woven into the fabric of our physical environment and our material culture.

“Many objects and documents in Glasgow Museums’ collection, the City Archives and Special Collections testify in one way or another to this grim part of our collective heritage. The funding from Museums Galleries Scotland will help us to draw attention to them and explore the ways in which they can shine a light on Glasgow’s relationship with transatlantic slavery during the 17th to 19th centuries.”

Other projects to receive MGS support focus on digitising collections to make them more accessible to the public and researchers, as well as improvements to buildings that will enable better access to previously restricted or unseen items. A number of awards will also fund the creation of new posts to undertake project management, business development, curatorial, and digitisation roles.

There is sure to be excitement in the south of the country, as the Devil’s Porridge Museum undertake restoration of the Mossband Clock of HM Factory Gretna. Building improvements will also take place at Montrose Air Station Museum and Crawfordjohn Heritage Centre in South Lanarkshire, while new conservation-grade display cases will grace the exhibition halls of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and Whitburn Community Museum in West Lothian.

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“We are delighted to support Scotland’s museums in achieving their ambitions through these twelve projects. Museums are safe spaces that reflect the world we live in, so it is entirely appropriate that we should invest in ensuring they remain relevant in today’s diverse society and we particularly welcome the projects that are revisiting their collections to explore different perspectives and stories. Lots of the projects involve elements of digitisation which will enable the museums to improve their accessibility, and we are also keen to support the creation of new jobs in the museums sector, which many of these projects will deliver.”

A full list of the funded projects appears below, and further details on the fund are available from



University of Aberdeen | £47,548 | Caring and Sharing: Responsible curation of the North American cultural collections in the University of Aberdeen

The project will improve the care and documentation of around 2250 North American items in the University's Nationally Significant Collections, and will enhance the University's online collections database, in addition to providing input to Indigenous community-controlled portals, a display in Aberdeen, and a public lecture. As well as enhancing housing and documentation, they will digitise many items and explore 3D-imaging options. They will employ a Curatorial Assistant to carry out much of this work and will run workshops to share learning with a wide range of colleagues.



Eastriggs and Gretna Heritage | £24,673 | Time for Improvement

The Devil’s Porridge Museum will restore and display the Mossband Clock which stood above the Central HQ of HM Factory Gretna. They will purchase high resolution digital copies of the Pearson Collection - a WW1 photographic record of the construction and operation of the HM Gretna Factory, and create an exhibition using the images. Finally, they will employ a Digital Marketing Modern Apprentice to develop their work promoting their collection through social media to a wider audience.



Ian McIntosh Memorial Trust | £40,000 | Development of a new exhibition hall

This project will expand the Montrose Air Station Museum's exhibition space allowing them to cover additional topics on a 2-3 year rotation and bring in more visitors. They have recently developed their existing links with the Royal Air Force Museum and hope to take more collections on loan from them, as well as display collections for which they do not currently have suitable space. The funding will support the building of an extension to one of their existing buildings.



West Lothian Council | £30,347 | Whitburn: Our Community Museum              

Whitburn Community Museum is relocating into Whitburn's Partnership Centre. This presents an opportunity for the museum to revitalise their displays with input from the local community. They will use the funding to support a part-time Community Engagement and Education Assistant who will run an outreach and engagement programme incorporating community interpretation events, workshops with local groups and schools, reminiscence sessions, and a collections roadshow, all of which will inform their new displays. The funding will also support the acquisition of display cases and object mounts, and the commissioning of display graphics.


Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh | £25,000 | Expanding Exhibitions: A collaborative approach

The museum wish to increase their capacity to develop exhibitions around significant loans of collections from other organisations, making use of the space they have that other medical collection holders do not, providing opportunities for exhibitions that could not take place anywhere else.


Linlithgow Heritage Trust | £22,500 | Linlithgow Museum Sustainability and Growth Project

Following the recent relocation and redevelopment of their museum offer, the Trust are now looking to how they can secure a sustainable future. This funding will allow them to appoint a Project Manager to carry out business development activity that will increase revenue from a diversified range of income streams.



British Golf Museum | £45,471 | Fore! Driving Inclusivity: Engaging the Local Community with the Nationally Significant Collection of the British Golf Museum

The museum are establishing positive change across many areas of Museum operation to attract local visitors, with the majority of their current visitors being from outside of St Andrews. They are seeking support to commission a piece of external research of their current and potential audiences and from this they will develop an audience development plan.



University of Glasgow | £51,000 | Curating Discomfort

This project will find new, inclusive ways to provide interpretation of contested collections so that it is sensitive to diverse voices. It will do so by bringing in a facilitation consultant to support the museum to run a series of community conversations and digital initiatives which will inform the development of interpretative strategies around questions including public health, social and gender equalities, and colonial histories.


Glasgow Life, Glasgow Museums | £60,000 | Legacies of Slavery and Empire

Funds to Glasgow Museums will support them to acknowledge and highlight the city's legacy of slavery, allowing them to weave the narrative through all of their museum sites. A programme of community engagement, collaborative research and public programming will inform and add vibrancy to the project. To plan and coordinate this they will recruit a Project Curator who will develop a display strategy in collaboration with community stakeholders.



Groam House Museum | £59,880 | Sharing the Creativity of Celtic Art through George Bain's Collection

Groam House will increase access to their Nationally Significant Collection and increase engagement with it. Via an interactive website, users will be able to comment on content and upload their own creative output and responses to the collection. Alongside this, they will run animation and dance workshops inspired by the collection and delivered by Platform and Plan B dance company. These will serve to raise awareness of the collection and the possibilities it presents to inspire creative activity.



Culture Perth and Kinross | £59,924 | My Museum

This project aims to introduce innovative and interactive digital engagement opportunities using accessible and fun online platforms. The project will work in partnership with cutting edge practitioners in Dundee to create the digital tools the museum requires to connect audiences to collections. Focusing on objects destined for display in the new Perth City Hall museum, the project will work with curators and a team of volunteers to create easily digestible, stimulating content. The funding will cover the cost of a short-term supporting post.



Crawfordjohn Heritage Venture Trust | £19,142 | Conservation Heating

The museum is located in an old church building and wish to improve their visitor experience. They have a wide programme of renovations planned and this funding will be used to install a conservation heating system with environmental controls as well as a designated archive space. These improvements will allow them to improve their ability to conserve collection items, and improve knowledge and research of them, as volunteers can work on the collections all year round.



Notes to editors

  • Museums Galleries Scotland is the National Development Body for museums and galleries in Scotland and offers strategic development support to the sector.
  • To support the development of a sustainable museum sector and increase its public value, MGS produced Going Further: The National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries in 2012.
  • MGS’s work supports and enables sector delivery in line with the National Strategy, brokering partnerships and providing the development opportunities, support, skills and funding museums need to work towards becoming more sustainable and resilient.
  • For further information about Museums Galleries Scotland visit




The current Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow was built in 1778 as the townhouse of William Cunninghame of Lainshaw, a wealthy Glasgow tobacco lord who made his fortune through the triangular slave trade. Copyright: Glasgow Museums.

Published 05 July 2019