Barnsley Museums curator awarded fellowship which provides time and resources to boost research

Natalie Murray, Collections and Exhibitions Manager at Barnsley Museums, has been announced today by The Headley Trust and Art Fund as one of the four successful recipients of the second round of the Headley Fellowships with Art Fund, a major national funding programme for museums professionals.

The Headley Fellowships with Art Fund is a three-year programme that was launched in 2018 to give curators the opportunity of focused time to research their institution’s collections, providing £600,000 in funding overall.

Natalie Murray, who will be researching the French paintings and drawings of the Cooper Collection said:

I feel elated to have been awarded the Headley Fellowship and to have so much time and resources to focus on one area of our collection. I’m looking forward to the in-depth research and to making connections with other collections and organisations.

The Headley Fellowship gives funding to back-fill mid-career and experienced curators’ posts in order to allow individuals to take time away from their day-to-day responsibilities and focus on collections research. Each fellow also receives up to £5,000 which can be used for travel, courses and learning opportunities.

The scheme is a response to Art Fund’s own research, which revealed that almost three-quarters (72%) of museum curators spent 15% or less of their time on collections research. It also comes at a time when public spending on museums and galleries in England has fallen by almost £400m over the last eight years.

The Headley Fellowships programme has previously supported another seven curators from across the UK, resulting in projects including the creation of new exhibitions. A further eleven fellowships will be available later this year in the third round of the programme.

The four curators selected this year are:

  • Natalie Murray, Collections and Exhibitions Manager at the Cooper Gallery, who will be researching the French paintings and drawings of the Cooper Collection.
  • Martin Pel, Curator of Fashion and Textiles at Brighton Museum, who will be researching the influence of British artist Martin Battersby on Brighton Museum.
  • Jody Joy, Senior Curator at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, who will be researching archaeology in Cambridgeshire.
  • Georgina Grant, Senior Curator at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, in Shropshire, who will be researching the Coalbrookdale Company orders.

Helen McLeod, the Headley Trust, said:

The Headley Fellowships with Art Fund provide a unique opportunity for some of the UK’s most talented curators. With this support, they can take time away from the growing day-to-day pressures of their roles to focus on research that will lead to new ways to engage the public with their collections and make connections with their peers in the museum world. We congratulate the four new beneficiaries on their exciting news and look forward to following their progress in the coming months.

Sarah Philp, Director of Programme and Policy, Art Fund, said:

The UK has some of the richest museum collections in the world, but there are still so many hidden narratives and so much knowledge yet to be uncovered. The Headley Fellowships give curators the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the art and objects in their care, and I am so excited to find out what new stories our new Fellows will be able tell museum visitors as a result of these fascinating research projects.