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Heritage Hub Collections Care training

Online Collections Care training

How to preserve your community or family archive

Advice on how to protect and look after your physical archive


Collections Care 7: funding options


Worried about the cost of preserving your collection? Want some tips on getting help?

Before reading this, ensure that you have:
• done a Caring for Collections Action Checklist? (Collections Care 3)
• prioritised tasks? (Collections Care 6)
• found out about archival quality materials and suppliers? (Collections Care 5)

You should then have all the information you need to look into costs more closely. It may be that you find there are cheaper alternatives to what you first thought necessary. Also, it doesn’t have to be done all at once – baby steps are fine!

If you have a plan, you will be ready to act when resources become available. Unexpected windfalls do happen, on occasion! If you are looking after family papers, see if relatives would be prepared to help out – even a small donation could make a difference.

So, get everything worked out, and look for different options. Talk to suppliers and see if they have any suggestions, they know their stocks and will be happy to advise. They often sell off odd sizes of things more cheaply, and you may find they have something that would work perfectly well, it might just be a bit bigger than what you had in mind, or a slightly different product that would still work for you.

If you have a larger collection belonging to an organisation or are a charity, you could look at raising money and recruiting helpers. Launch a local appeal. Ask for funding for specific tasks from your "to do" list, or a contribution of time to help with tasks. People could sign up to a particular "gift" like a wedding present list. Their names could be recorded as supporters and/or funders and you could invite them to a launch party or to a celebration when all the work is done – after lockdown is lifted of course!

You could also apply for grant funding. As you’ve started your "Caring for Collections Action Checklist", you will be able to show what you have done and what you want to do. If you have prioritised your tasks following a risk assessment exercise and costed them, you will have a really good plan! These are key elements you’ll need to make a funding request.

Pick up the phone and talk to someone. See if they think it might be worth an application, and ask how best to go about it, they can be really helpful. Here are some funding organisations to check out:

The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust Grants are given to archives, libraries, trusts, societies, and parish churches for re-housing collections in archival protective enclosures as well as for interventive conservation treatments. If you have a collection or an item that might be considered nationally significant, this could be worth a try.

• The Pilgrim Trust gives to charities and other public bodies, it has a more social focus but also provides funding for collection care and management of historically significant artifacts or documents. It likes to encourage other charities to contribute too, including the NMCT and will get involved when a worthy cause appears hopeless.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is another possibility, they fund all sorts of community heritage and cultural projects. They have a lot of experience working with different ideas and provide plenty of advice and support.

How about some creative thinking around improving the wellbeing of your community through the appreciation of your local heritage and culture? Your parish or town council might be able to help. Or if you are situated in a rural location, try the Calor Rural Community Fund.

There may also be smaller local charities, societies or residents’ associations in your area happy to contribute towards an imaginative project that will support and enrich the lives of local people. Try searching the Charity Commission website by local authority area, refining your search by "What the charity does" and "How the charity operates" and you will find all sorts of charities. Look for one that might find your collection or project interesting and talk to them, they may be able to provide some money, offer great suggestions, or make connections to other interested people to help get things started. Who knows where it might lead . . .

Plan to succeed and you will. There will be a way, even if it is not obvious at the start. Make your plan, be prepared to be flexible, and you will be ready when the opportunity presents itself. Don’t worry too much about set-backs, if you are enthusiastic and have an interesting collection or project idea try another way. If you don’t come through with anything, pass your plan with the collection to the next person who takes on the responsibility. They will at least know what you were intending to do, won’t have to repeat all the work you have done, and it could set the ball rolling nicely!

Page updated: 17/11/2020 Page updated by: Ally McConnell

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