Investing in curators pays off

Investing in curatorial skills will help build museums’ resilience and reputation, according to a new report from the John Ellerman Foundation.

The report analyses £3 million worth of grants to 30 organisations, made through the Foundation’s Museums and Galleries Fund. This was set up in 2014 to support curatorial skills, an area that has lacked investment, particularly outside London, says the Foundation.

The grants have enabled new curators to enter the sector, bringing fresh perspectives, and provided incumbent curators with opportunities for skills development and growth.

Based on evaluations, the report says the grants have had a ‘multiplier effect’ beyond individual curators and their immediate teams. It includes case studies which show how curatorial investment has strengthened institutions as a whole and raised their profile more widely.

Support for skills development, including invisible, "under the bonnet" activities such as collections’ maintenance and conservation, has made a big difference

The report’s lead author, Virginia Tandy, said, “The impact of support for curatorial skills has had a profound effect on the organisations we have worked with. Where this difference is most felt, however, is in communities – through high-quality exhibitions for the public, and stronger relationships between institutions, local communities and volunteers. We have seen how this translates into greater civic pride and the protection of cultural assets for the public.”

John Ellerman Foundation director, Nicola Pollock (pictured here), said, “Targeting funding at the heart of a museum or gallery is in tune with our overall emphasis on supporting core costs; through this we also aimed to address the effects of austerity and rebalance investment towards the institution’s central assets. Demand has been high which, with the learning so far, has confirmed the value of investing in this aspect of museum life. It has brought benefits beyond those originally expected.”

The Foundation plans to convene an event to further disseminate the findings in the Spring.

AI will carry a feature about the John Ellerman Foundation and its work shortly.


John Ellerman Foundation, Museums and Galleries Fund, January 2019,by Virginia Tandy and Dan Watson, is available on the John Ellerman Foundation website ( An executive summary is also available.



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