Highlights from our museums live chat

Yesterday we hosted an informative live chat about museums. We were joined by a panel of expert guests, external contributors, and even HLF's own CEO, Ros Kerslake.

As ever, we've rounded up the best insights and advice for you here:

How can museums make best use of HLF funding to support themselves in the short and longer term?

  • Resilient Heritage funding can help museums 'get their house in order', identify the right direction, and get the right skills in place, to ensure long-term viability.
  • The Sharing Heritage and Our Heritage programmes can help museums explore new ways of working, with potentially new audiences, to develop projects that core funding won't support.
  • Use funding strategically, perhaps to support individual elements of a longer-term business plan.
  • Have a plan for how to maintain the long-term vision after the funded project has ended.
  • HLF funding can help you garner more support: “There is no better message for other funders that HLF are interested and committed to your project”.

Can you please expand a bit further on what makes a good Resilient Heritage project for museums?

  • It needs to be a proposal that will clearly make a difference to the organisation in the long term, through a thorough, and well-managed process.
  • Consultation is key: make sure you know what you’re planning is wanted - ask, listen, act and amend your plans accordingly.
  • Remember, you can have ‘more than one bite of the cherry’. We'd much rather have projects that are realistic, deliverable and appropriate to your size or organisation.
  • It might be better to phase your ambitions over time rather than attempting to do and be everything.
  • HLF want your project to succeed, so talk to us if things start to go awry. We will work with you and do what we can to ensure it all works out in the end.

What should a museum service do if it is facing financial or other difficulties? And what other funding or support is available?

  • Don’t wait until it happens. Plan for it anyway. For example, if you need to income generate, it will take time to build your market, so the sooner you start that the better.
  • Take advice and be honest about the situation. If it is an on-going HLF project then talk to us because we want your project/organisation to succeed. If you’re not HLF-supported, talk to us anyway.
  • For managing change in local authority museums: speak with your legal team for advice if the collections are under threat. You may also need to consult the Local Government Association and ARts Council England.
  • Community support is key, whatever the difficulty you’re facing. Make sure you are logging and gathering evidence of your impacts – not just visitor figures, but differences you’re making to people’s lives.
  • Happy Museum website is full of great ideas and toolkits to measure impact: http://happymuseumproject.org
  • For support and funding, see - 
  • Museum Development Network: http://museumdevelopmentnetwork.org/
  • Association of Independent Museum’s Hallmarks grants: https://www.aim-museums.co.uk/for-aim-members/grants/
  • Catalyst Cymru grants (Wales): http://www.wcva.org.uk/funding/catalyst-cymru
  • To help build resilience, see - 
  • Future Proof Museums and Building resilience programmes, run by the Arts marketing Association:http://www.a-m-a.co.uk/learn/training/long-term-programmes/futureproof/ and http://www.a-m-a.co.uk/learn/training/building-resilience/
  • Transformers programme run by the Museums Association: https://www.museumsassociation.org/professional-development/transformers
  • Tip: regional museum federations and subject-specialist networks are also a great way of not feeling isolated.

What should museums consider when taking a decision on whether to charge or offer free admission?

  • One size will not fit all.
  • Take your local context into consideration - who are your visitors and who do you want to be your visitors? How are they going to feel about charging? What are other cultural offers doing near you? Will it exclude segments of your existing audience?
  • If you do charge, there is some research to suggest that it shouldn’t be a nominal charge – people don’t think it’ll be worth it if it seems too cheap!
  • Admission charges should be part of a robust business plan and not as a panacea for reduced funding.
  • See 'Taking Charge – The impact of charging or not for admission on museums' (DC Research) August 2016 (commissioned by Association of Independent Museums): https://www.aim-museums.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Final-Report-Taking-Charge-%E2%80%93-Evaluating-the-Evidence-The-Impact-of-Charging-or-Not-for-Admissions-on-Museums.pdf

What advice can you give to potential applicants? What have you learnt along the way, and what do you know now that you wish you'd known then?

  • Talk to the regional/nation teams at all stages of your project – from having a germ of an idea right through to during your delivery of the project.
  • Give yourself the time to do it properly. That’s true of the time to put in the application and the time to do the project.
  • Make sure your consultation is thorough and honest.
  • Make sure you’re thinking of life after the project has finished and building in how you are going to sustain it – everything from how partnerships will be maintained to how it will be funded after opening day.


What do you think - what advice can you share about applying for a museum project grant, or managing a museum project? Or what more would you like to know? Please share below.