Queer Heritage and Collections Network awarded Arts Council England and National Lottery Project Funding

(Credit: LSE Library)

The Queer Heritage and Collections Network has been awarded £130,574 through an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant to the University of Leicester, to achieve a step change in the capacities and confidence of museums and heritage bodies by supporting them to be world-leading in the way they use their collections to increase public understanding of, access to, and engagement with LGBTIQA+ heritage.

The Queer Heritage and Collections Network is a UK-wide Subject Specialist Network that provides training, networking and peer support to people working with LGBTIQA+ collections and histories. The Network is free to join and open to all individuals and organisations committed to advancing LGBTIQA+ inclusion and equity. It supports galleries, libraries, archives and museums that are researching their collections and developing public programming bringing LGBTIQA+ histories and themes to the fore. In 2021, QHCN was awarded Best Partnership of the Year by the Museums + Heritage Awards.

In its first 3 years, the Network has run a series of annual symposiums, online development sessions and supported a range of projects and organisations including Queer Kernow, Outburst Arts and Scottish Council on Archives (OurStory). The funding will build on the success of the previous 3 years of activity for the Queer Heritage and Collections Network, enabling a step change in the ambition and scope of its activities. The Network and the five Founding Members – English Heritage, Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces, National Trust and the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries – will support a growing body of Network members in working with LGBTIQA+ collections and histories.

A key feature of the new funding is support to co-design 6 new creative projects in English museums, galleries and heritage bodies, delivered through a cohort of leaders that will receive mentorship, targeted skills development and access to leading-edge international research, practice and leadership.

National Lottery Project Grants is the Arts Council’s open access programme for arts, museums and libraries projects. The fund supports thousands of individual artists, community and cultural organisations thanks to National Lottery investment.

National Lottery players raise over £30 million for good causes each week, funding arts, heritage, sports, voluntary and charity projects around the UK. Over £43 billion has been raised for Good Causes since the National Lottery began in 1994.

Rachael Lennon, Chair of the Queer Heritage and Collections Network, said: “This investment will allow us to create a real step change in network activity across the sector. People working in museums, galleries, archives and heritage organisations today continue to inherit a legacy of exclusion and repression relating to LGBTQ+ lives. Over the next three years we will work not only to provide important support to heritage professionals, but to give people from all over the UK a greater chance to discover an area of our national story that remains largely obscured. We’re grateful to Arts Council England, and the National Lottery, for helping us to ensure that more people have an opportunity to connect with a queer past.”

Emmie Kell, Director (Museums and Cultural Property), Arts Council England, said: “Museums are a vital aspect of cultural life, and the care and display of collections within them help us to understand who we are and where we come from. We're delighted to help museums develop their understanding of the collections they hold and uncover some of the untold stories that exist behind the objects in their care. It is exciting that through our Unlocking Collections programme, the potential of museum collections can be fully realised, providing more opportunities for audiences to engage with them.”