Saturday, 15 July 2017

Conference: cathedral treasures, celebrating our historic collections

I spent a very enjoyable, if extremely hot, day in Canterbury at this conference in the library and archives. Despite the title, this was a really relevant conference for anyone looking after historic collections, whether cathedral or not.

Several speakers talked about getting funding for their projects and how they managed this. They included Mark Hosea (Canterbury Journey), the Very Rev. Philip Hesketh (Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions at Rochester)

The overriding impression was of the amount of work involved in getting funding - often involving large amounts of staff time over a number of years before a successful bid is won. One comment that getting funding has developed into an industry in its own right certainly seemed to resonate.

Key points were:
  • Applications must stick closely to the funding criteria (eg engagement with heritage)
  • Get management buy in eg by getting your collection management plan adopted by your senior management committee
  • You can never do enough planning
  • Avoid over-stretching and do not lose sight of the core work. Do not be over-ambitious.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected (Rochester Cathedral had their whole project delayed by the discovery of two pieces of stone of national significance just where they'd planned to install a lift into the crypt)
Declan Kelly (National Church Institutions) talked about why the Church Commissioners had decided to fund the new Lambeth Palace Library building themselves after exploring various funding approaches. They had been able to make the case for funding by demonstrating the poor conditions in the existing building, and how it was destroying the collections, along with external advice from, for example, The National Archives.

Managing exhibitions
There was some discussion around the practicalities of managing exhibitions in non-exhibition spaces. There is a need to be discerning about what is allowed, the impact on the organisational capabilities of the hosting institution and whether it adds to the institution or detracts. It is also important to draw up professional exhibition agreements eg for insurance and invigilation.

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