To celebrate the launch of our Small Open Grants for 2024, we are taking a moment to reflect on some of the amazing projects we funded with those grants in 2023. Perhaps you are keen to apply for funding yourself and are looking for inspiration? In this blog we show how a small grant can have a big impact on your audiences, collections and governance.  

A white woman with curly blonde hair is smiling with both hands up in excitement. One hand has a cat puppet on it.With their small grant, Brixham Heritage Museum created six themed backpacks and ten ‘booster bags’ for use by family visitors. The aim was to engage family visitors and encourage repeat visits from locals by making the museum a welcoming place and creating meaningful experiences. The themes for the bags related to the collection and included hand puppets, books, toys and games, tools for exploring and laminated trail sheets. 

The museum carried out paper evaluations from the backpack’s launch through the summer holidays and into September, gathering 123 children’s responses and 103 adult responses. The evaluation responses showed that bags were well-received, with the most popular tools being the torches and magnifying glasses.  

The trails are part of a move away from activities to ‘keep children quiet and busy’ and to make them feel that they are welcome and important to the museum. One mother of an autistic child was very moved by the sensory bag and said she would promote the museum to the group for parents of autistic children she is part of. 

Black and white photo of three rows of Edwardian nurses posing for a photo.Glenside Hospital Museum wanted to rationalise their collection in preparation for a potential move. The project focused the museum’s efforts on tackling ongoing collections management challenges and produced a plan which now enables everyone to work well as a team. With their small grant, they took on board a consultant to review their Collections Development Policy and to develop a procedure which would enable teams of volunteers of all abilities to participate. They recruited 10 collections volunteers, including four who were new to the museum, for the project. They were upskilled and trained in collections management. In addition, two volunteers attended our SW Museum Skills collections care training session at Dorset Museum to support the project.

As a result of the project, Glenside Hospital Museum now have a more robust collections management framework and processes and procedures that have been updated. The professional training in collections management and care has increased the volunteers’ abilities to process objects confidently, working out which are key to the museum’s mission and pro-actively, using a tight procedure, rehome others. The confidence and knowledge of the collection’s team has increased which can be observed through their enthusiasm, dedication and retention. The grant has ensured an understanding of good museum practice and forward planning to support being an Accredited Museum.

After operating as a Charitable Trust for more than 30 years, with a Trust Document largely unchanged, the Perranzabuloe Museum committee recognised their governance needed strengthening. An Organisational Health Check with Museum Development South West confirmed there were areas of their operation which required attention.  

They engaged the services of a freelance Museum Facilitator who ran two sessions with the Management Committee, in which they explored the core purpose of the museum, what is important to them, their strengths and weaknesses, how the museum operates and their vision for the future. Perranzabuloe Museum concluded that their Charitable Trust status was no longer fit for purpose, and they decided to make the transfer to a CIO. The facilitator discussed this process with them and drew up a report to share with Trustees, volunteers and supporters. 

Having an outsider confirm that changes needed to be made gave the committee a better understanding of its role and a clear vision for the museum. They feel it has made the Committee stronger and more cohesive by giving them a clear direction for governance plans and ensures the resilience of the museum. 

Museums from the South West have until Monday 13 May to submit their applications for our Small Open Grants. We recommend getting in touch with your local, place-based Museum Development Officer to discuss your idea before you submit your application.