National Galleries for Scotland administers the scheme which gives recognised status to nationally important collections outside of national institutions. It’s about celebrating, promoting and investing in the collections to ensure their long term future by increasing awareness, engagement and pride in the collections.
There are currently 47 recognised collections, 18 are local authority collections, 21 are independent, 1 partnership collection and not forgetting the museum collections at Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews.
The scheme has developed over 13 years from initial feasibility and sector consultation to announcing the first recognised collections 10 years ago and has moved onto review and developing the scheme to ensure its sustainable and can evolve.
The first step is attending a workshop to find out more about the process at the beginning of the year to assist in making a strong application. The cut off for applications is the end of June.
Each application is very detailed to enable a fair assessment. There is a limit of one box file which sounds a lot but in reality isn’t, so its key to provide what the assessment team are looking for and to make it count.
Initially there is a rapid assessment, after which the file is passed to a subject specialist whose knowledge is particularly relevant to that collection. Often they work with specialists across a number of organisations such as the V&A. The final decision is ultimately made by a committee with a range of skills and expertise.
Once a collection achieves recognised status there is a real sense of celebration and strong promoting of the collection with media announcements. There is also the ability to apply for funding, link ups with other recognised collections and a sense of collective advocacy with similar collections.
Recognised collections also get exclusive access to the recognition fund. It’s quite unique in the fact the funding is 100% grants with no match funding and also aligns to scheme objectives. Upto £60,000 can be allocated per project that lasts upto 2 years. Although there is two rounds per year it is highly competitive, so to achieve funding is a huge achievement.
Recognised collections are now expected to give annual status reports and demonstrate they are developing, sharing experiences and promoting engagement with their collections. Status reviews happen every 5 years or when there is a significant change to ensure eligibility continues and that the collection develops in line with the scheme objectives.
There has been over 10,000 research request to access recognised collections 2014-16 (Key evaluation period). In the same period there has been a 10% rise in records of digitally accessible collections and over 2,000 loans from recognised collections every year, a 1/3 of the loans are to institutions outside of the UK.
There is a real sense of collaborative work with subject specialists and learning across the recognised collections. The application process may seem daunting but there is support throughout from the initial workshops through to the final decision.
By Rachel Coman