UKRI funds engagement through museums and science centres

Group sat around a table

£828,000 of Mindsets + Missions funding will support community engagement with research and innovation through 12 UK museums and science centres.

In partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is funding 12 projects by UK museums and science centres as part of the Mindsets + Missions programme.

The grants will support the development of new ways to engage underrepresented groups with research and innovation.

The grants are being delivered by the Museums Association in partnership with the Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) and The Liminal Space.

Breaking down barriers

UKRI Head of Public Engagement Tom Saunders said:

With our new Public Engagement strategy, UKRI’s ambition is to break down the barriers between research, innovation and society.

We are excited to be working with these 12 organisations to explore the diverse ways that museums and science centres can open up research and innovation and connect with underrepresented groups.

Through this work we seek to put inclusivity at the heart of future museum and science centre practice and how they enable the public to engage with research and innovation.

Working with underrepresented communities

Museums Association Director Sharon Heal said:

Mindsets + Missions is proving to be a driving force for creating an ever more equitable and socially engaged sector, and we are proud to be supporting these 12 changemaking organisation.

All too often research and innovation are seen to be the preserve of a privileged few and I look forward to seeing how the museums [and science centres] in this programme will work with underrepresented communities to support them to develop their own research and innovation agendas.

Embedding positive change

Founding Director of the Liminal Space Sarah Douglas said:

Having worked with the grantees on the Mindsets + Missions Learning Programme, we’re really excited to see these original new voices deliver an incredible diversity of brave and bold projects.

We’re certain their work will inspire others within the museums and science centre sectors to embed positive change.

Pushing the boundaries

ASDC Chief Executive Sharon Leverment said:

We are delighted to be supporting museums and science centres to push the boundaries and possibilities of equitable and inclusive participation in UK research and innovation.

ASDC recognises the value of our sector for challenging the inequalities of power, access and opportunity in STEM, and we are eager to share all the incredible learning and inspirational practice that emerges from Mindsets + Missions.

Mindsets + Missions

Mindsets + Missions is a pilot learning and grants programme. It is designed to support museums, science centres and individuals from the sectors to realise new and creative approaches to serving their communities through inclusive research-related projects.

Projects focus on working with those who have fewer opportunities to have their voices and experiences represented within culture, heritage, science and research.

Research areas to be explored range from museum and science centre design and accessibility, local biodiversity and nature-connectedness, astronomy and the cosmos, and cultural history.

The projects

The 12 grantees and the projects awarded Mindsets + Missions grants are:

  • Amgueddfa Cymru (Museum Wales), Newid Byd/Something New
  • Discovering42, Inclusive Interactivity
  • Durham University, Street Cosmos
  • Dynamic Earth, Testing for Change
  • Fitzwilliam Museum, Future/Power
  • Kielder Observatory, The North East Astro-Imaging Academy
  • Manchester Museum, Belonging in the Wild
  • The Mixed Museum, Reclaiming Stories Through Science
  • National Windrush Museum, Enhancing Cultural Visualisation
  • Queer Britain, Stories + Strategies
  • Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium, The Sound of Biodiversity
  • Xplore! Science and Discovery Centre, A Place of Lifelong Learning

The selected projects include:

  • increasing recognition of oral histories from LGBTQ+ people as valuable and impactful research practice
  • enhancing interactive exhibits’ inclusivity for individuals with limited mobility
  • a partnership between a museum and youth collective exploring local history through black-history lens

Civic and cultural engagement

The projects are dedicated to making cultural and civic engagement possible for everyone. They will bring diverse and plural perspectives to the development of the knowledge, research and innovation needed to build our future societies.

Through co-development and participatory practice, the projects will explore local and global issues, and generate ideas and outputs with the power to improve lives. As case study projects, they will help our museums and science centres to become more equitable and representative.

Mindsets + Missions aims to:

  • explore new and evidenced ways to engage underrepresented groups with research and innovation
  • champion and inspire, bold and creative practices in the museums and science centre sectors
  • create resources and tools to support museums and science centres in this work
  • share learning with the wider sector, including researchers, engagement practitioners and funders

A strong pool of applicants

The diverse portfolio of cross-sectoral, boundary-pushing projects has grown from a strong pool of applicants who were all involved in the Mindsets + Missions learning programme run in early 2023.

Led by The Liminal Space, participants from throughout the UK explored the central tenets of the Mindsets + Missions programme, developed partnerships and collaborations, and enhanced their practice and approach to research and innovation.

Mindsets + Missions builds on a rich foundation of research and experience, including:

Further information

The projects

Amgueddfa Cymru’s (Museum Wales)

Newid Byd/Something New will pilot a community action research framework to explore the representation and inclusion of learning disability communities’ experiences in Welsh cultural heritage.


Inclusive Interactivity will empower people with lived experience to guide the design and development of hands-on exhibits for museums and science centres which are more inclusive of people with limited mobility.

Durham University

Street Cosmos builds on the successful ‘Street Museum’ model and aims to connect underrepresented communities across County Durham with the most recent advances in space science research from Durham University’s Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics.

Dynamic Earth

Testing for Change is a programme of research which will inform how unheard voices and plural perspectives are represented in Dynamic Earth’s permanent exhibition and programming.

Fitzwilliam Museum

Future/Power assembles around the forthcoming exhibition, Black Atlantic: Power, People, Resistance, which examines the legacies of enslavement at Cambridge, to generate co-research, youth voice, and engagement in local history through a black-history lens.

Kielder Observatory

The North East Astro-Imaging Academy represents a mission to democratise access to astrophotography, to connect people within areas of socio-economically deprived areas with their dark skies heritage. This will empower them to participate in the generation of imagery and data to enrich academic research and further our understanding of the universe.

Manchester Museum

Belonging in the Wild aims to catalyse new knowledge production and a step-change in equitable working with people with lived experience of disability, by investigating and prioritising their understandings of the natural world, environmental action, and social justice.

The Mixed Museum

Reclaiming Stories Through Science is a project designed to co-create a transformative space where research into the role of DNA in the lives of ‘Brown Babies’ families is equitable and empowering, rather than extractive.

National Windrush Museum

Enhancing Cultural Visualisation embraces innovation by focusing on collecting, preserving, and visually showcasing Windrush narratives, promoting the Windrush 75th anniversary, engaging diverse audiences, and preserving Windrush legacies.

Queer Britain

Stories + Strategies will work to increase recognition of oral histories as valuable and impactful research practice and resources, focusing on LGBTQ+ histories. It will also work to reduce barriers against full inclusion of queer stories and heritage in museums and science centres, as well as the connected sectors.

Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium

The Sound of Biodiversity is a one-year pathfinder project, bringing together a ‘community-based learning eco-system’, to develop a new approach to engaging young children with science and nature through sustainability research.

Xplore! Science and Discovery Centre

A Place of Lifelong Learning will collaborate with diverse groups to develop initiatives which have significant, positive influences on people’s lives, and work to develop museums and science centres as places of lifelong learning.

Top image:  Credit: The Liminal Space (photo by Mark Newton)

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