One of the step changes for the second year of the WIRP was the introduction of an International Travel Grant Scheme. We introduced the scheme because my research identified that there were only a few opportunities to secure funding for international travel, and that these were often limited to curatorial research. We also knew that the British Council wouldn’t be running any travel grant schemes in 2015/16 as it had for travel to China and India in previous years. This specific but important gap in funding needed to be filled and we had the opportunity to fill it.
Throughout my research, museum and gallery staff had repeatedly stressed how even small amounts of ‘seed funding’ could make a difference to their ability to develop international projects. A face-to-face meeting with international partners can be key to developing the institutional and cultural understand and trust required to take a project from an idea to the next stage of securing funding and on to delivery.
The WIRP offered six grants at up to £2,000 each, and the response was amazing! I received a total of 32 applications to undertake visits to potential partners and develop projects across the globe, from Germany to Jamaica to Australia. Not only was I delighted that the scheme could enable museum staff to travel to countries not commonly eligible for travel grants, but the variety of projects and potential partners was inspiring. Applications came from the smallest to largest regional museums, from Haslemere Educational Museum in Surrey and The Brunel Museum in London to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (main image) and Beamish. This variety backs up my research that indicated international work is relevant to museums of all types and sizes, and for a variety of activity and not only international touring exhibitions.
I won’t list all of the successful applicants here (the full list can be found on the ICOM UK website) but, personally, I am excited to see how Royal Cornwall Museum draw on a shared mining history to take forward their collaboration with FE and university partners in Cornwall and Mexico, and how The Brunel Museum in London develops innovative methods of STEM teaching in museums with partners in the USA. Both of these projects also have the potential to develop new models for working internationally that could be used by other organisations.
Eleven museums and galleries have been awarded grants and will undertake their international visits during 2016. Each organisation will write a blog post and share photographs from their visit on the ICOM UK website, and the WIRP will also organise an event in early 2017 to share the learning from the international visits with the wider sector.