The pilot opportunity will support the development of exhibitions co-created and co-designed by collaborative teams from across the HEI, IRO or GLAM sectors.
We invite proposals for exhibitions with public engagement programmes, to be developed and delivered between 2023 to 2026. The exhibition can be physical, digital or a hybrid. It can be hosted at 1 site or across multiple venues as part of a touring exhibition series.
While we welcome tested approaches, we also want to encourage innovative and creative approaches to delivering exhibitions with public engagement programmes that are grounded in arts and humanities research, and it is not our intent to be prescriptive in the opportunity.
Project teams should have at least 1 person based at an HEI or IRO (principal investigator), and we welcome the inclusion of public facing organisation such as GLAM organisations, arts or cultural centres. Proposals should also demonstrate appropriate consultation and engagement with GLAM or IRO learning and engagement staff, or external community organisations (as partners), who may provide support, guidance or delivery of public engagement components of the project, where additional resource is required.
Proposals should demonstrate a strong, equitable partnership, with genuine co-design and co-creation of the project. The nature of the partnership and the roles of each team member should be outlined within the case for support.
The opportunity is not designed to fund new research but support the development of exhibitions underpinned by existing research. However, we understand research is an important part of the process when developing an exhibition, therefore, some new research can be built into proposals if it is going to enhance the content of an exhibition. For example, this might include:
- research around understudied parts of collections
- research addressing thematic gaps which will help to provide a fuller picture to the exhibition narrative
- research around visitor studies or audience engagement
- opportunities for capacity building in research skills amongst staff or public participants
- opportunities for public engagement in collections-based research
Your project may also lead to the scoping of new future research opportunities.
It is important that your project is collaborative, and your exhibition proposal allows for equitable working amongst all HEI, IRO, non-academic and community partners. We invite proposals that demonstrate clearly how:
- the research questions and remit of the exhibition (particularly for new research) have been scoped out collaboratively between all HEI, IRO and non-academic parties
- the project is relevant to all HEI, IRO and non-academic parties (for example, if working with an IRO or non-academic partner, we want to see how the research relates to their collections or long-term exhibition plans, and wider organisational goals)
- the principle investigator and co-investigators are uniquely placed to deliver the project in terms of their academic and professional background, and the skills and expertise they will bring to the project
- the IRO or non-academic partner is uniquely placed to collaborate and host the exhibition
- the project adds value to all HEI, IRO and non-academic parties, and how each collaborating partner brings value to the research
While we welcome tested approaches, we also want to encourage innovative approaches to delivering exhibitions as well as public engagement. Exhibition proposals must include a plan for a programme of public engagement activity which engages public audiences in all stages of the project, from the exhibition’s research and development phase through to its delivery and run.
We are particularly keen to see activity that engages audiences who might not normally connect with the GLAM sector. In addition, activity that facilitates deep and sustained engagement with existing audiences from the local community, allowing the host organisation to enhance and develop these relationships. Some examples of public engagement activity include:
- object handling sessions on or off-site, inviting people ‘behind-the-scenes’ or bringing the exhibition research and objects to where they live, work and play
- knowledge exchange methods (for example, oral histories, interviews, crowd-sourcing, contributions to exhibition object IDs). Inviting people to share their lived experiences and knowledge of ideas and objects with curators and researchers, and to learn from the project team
- creative workshops (for example art, music, writing) and creative responses (for example, performances, podcasts, art) to the exhibition and exhibition research. Inviting people to respond to what they have seen
- talks and in conversations with curators and researchers
- film screenings with question and answer sessions
- performances and concerts that bring the exhibition ideas to life
In essence we are looking for a mixed model of dissemination and collaboration, sharing research and ideas, as well as enabling people to use their lived experiences to add to research understanding.
As well as including exhibition costs, other activities can be supported such as associated events, workshops or activities. This could involve working with community organisations, local voluntary or public sector organisations, and schools and colleges.
We are particularly keen to see proposals that identify a clearly defined audience group(s). Activity may engage new or diverse public audiences who might not normally connect with the GLAM sector or that facilitates deep and sustained engagement with existing audiences from the local community, allowing the host organisation to enhance and develop these relationships.
We encourage you to work with voluntary or community organisations, where needed, to facilitate engagement and relationship-building with new audiences. Public engagement activity must be relevant to the interests and needs of your public audience(s) and have potential to make a positive change (impact) in their lives. We understand reaching new or diverse audiences can be a complex and challenging process, while we would encourage this, it is not mandatory.
We do not intend to define diversity for the purposes of this opportunity, it will be up to applicants to outline why they consider a potential group as a new interaction and explain how they intend to reach that audience. The Arts Council England provide a useful definition of diversity and resource material for the GLAM sector. By new audience, this could be a new audience for the piece of research or an audience who is new to the museum.
Outcomes and impact
We are looking for proposals that demonstrate strong potential for positive outcomes and impact for the HEI, IRO, non-academic parties and public audiences. Some examples include:
- capacity and skills-building across HEI, IRO and non-academic parties, with an explanation of how this will add value to future workplans or career development
- development of research areas which could enhance collections knowledge, contribute to future collections or exhibition development, or lead to future research scoping. For example, the temporary exhibition could lead to the development of a permanent display or a reinterpretation of a permanent collection. If a permanent display is intended, the proposal should include plans for the long-term care of the display or collection, outlining who would be responsible for this
- positive impacts on public audiences, including:
- improved sense of wellbeing and empowerment
- opportunities to share their knowledge and experiences and contribute to research
- enhanced knowledge and understanding of a subject matter
- access to spaces, resources or expertise, and development of new skills that can help enhance their lives or work
What funding can I apply for?
In this pilot opportunity, AHRC will fund 1 project. Following a review of the pilot, it is our hope that the Exhibition Fund will become an annual competition.
AHRC will contribute up to £250,000 in total, to cover any new research activity, exhibition or public engagement activity costs and staff time. As per standard rules on full economic costing, lead organisation will be expected to contribute 20% of the funding, with AHRC paying 80%. There are some exceptions which can be included at 100%, these include:
- co-investigators based at a non-HEI or IRO organisations
- other staff time such as technical expertise (under sub-contractors)
- exhibition costs which could include, for example, transportation, object storage and packing, conservation work, insurance, site visits, graphic design, exhibition materials, cataloguing
- costs associated with public engagement activities, for example:
- expenses for participants where their involvement in a project is significant or continuous over a long period of time
- carers or guardians if the project involves working with young people or individuals who may need support to participate
- freelancer fees for the delivery of the projects
- cost of producing outputs and essential activity material (equipment, props etc.)
- venue hire (if off-site)
- transport costs (if working off-site)
Applicants are welcome to secure additional funding from other sources, this should be clearly outlined in the application.
The cost for the exhibition can be estimates at the point of application as we understand the design will evolve and develop throughout. You should give indicative figures at the point of application, indicating where flexibility may be needed.
Applicants are welcome to provide match funding, or their own contributions but this is not mandatory. When costing a proposal, applicants should follow the principals of full economic costing, as outlined in the AHRC funding guide.
Proposals cannot include marketing costs, although the cost of licensing for use of images can be included.
Projects will be required to submit a monitoring, evaluation and learning plan which will outline how you will evaluate and measure the success of the exhibition and public engagement activities, for example, what methods you will use to measure the benefits of the activities.
Annex 1 outlines AHRC’s ‘theory of change’ criteria used to evaluate and measure the impact of its funding. Applicants should take this into consideration when drafting their monitoring, evaluation and learning plan. The successful grant holder will be expected to be open to working with AHRC in developing their plans further.