South West Area Natural Sciences Collections Project: SWANS

South West Museum Development Programme

We worked in partnership with Bristol Museum & Art Gallery following their successful application for funding from the John Ellerman Foundation.

Bristol Museums Development Trust, secured £85,425 to unlock the potential of natural science curators and natural science collections of regional and international significance within the museum over a period of 18 months with the project finishing in May 2017.

Watch our SWANS introductory video

SWANS report

Read the full SWANS reportScreenshot of SWANS report

Collaborative research

The benefits of this funding have extended beyond Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and the core project partners, having a wider impact on museum professionals and volunteers working with natural sciences collections across the south west region.

We worked in partnership with Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, the University of Bristol Geology Collection and Royal Cornwall Museum; all of whom host the remaining natural sciences curators in the region. The partnership explored new digital platforms, mapped natural science skills across the region, developed a regional network for skills sharing and co-developing regional projects and improved specialist knowledge in challenging areas such as the legal and ethical positions on collecting specimens.

We collaborated with around 25 museums and heritage organisations beyond the partnership and have undertaken research with museums across the region to learn more about the natural sciences collections in the south west and engagement with these collections.

This research also sought to identify key skills in the region and establish skills gaps. Findings from the research have formed the foundation of a strategic plan of prioritised training and resources. These will enable regional natural sciences curators and non-specialists with responsibility for natural sciences collections to preserve and share collections, while increasing their knowledge and skills.

How-to video guides to looking after your natural sciences collections: