#FundingWeek: Heritage Lottery Funding for Museums

Colchester Castle

Visitors enjoying the new displays at Colchester Castle

Stuart Hobley is Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in the East of England. In this blog he outlines some of the museum projects in Essex that have received funds along with steps you can take to apply for support.

“I love museums. Really, I do – they’re full of some of the most remarkable stories. From Wallace the Lion at Saffron Walden to Boudica attacks at Colchester… and HLF loves a museum too, from your big regionals to independent and volunteer-run; to accredited and non-accredited, we’ve funded many of them!

And the list of things we’ve funded is pretty long too… redisplay, volunteer skills and development, developing learning and outreach, improving storage and access, even buying objects and artefacts to help you offer more (just ask Gordon at the Fry Art Gallery…). We can even fund those less exciting (but also important) things like toilets when they are part of a wider project.

What makes a compelling project for HLF?

Essex Police Museum have also benefited from HLF funding

Essex Police Museum has also benefited from HLF funding

That’s down to you. Think about the stories you want to share and why it’s important that more people know about them. We want you to improve your museum for existing visitors and reach out to new audiences.

Who are you doing the project for? We want more people, and a wider range of people to #loveheritage as much as we do. Think about those people; have you thought about what they want from your museum?

What will your project actually do? Don’t use jargon – just be clear and tell us straight what the project benefits will be. We want to fund believable projects, including those schemes that can help you be more resilient.

How will you do it? It’s OK to start your thinking with that ‘wish list’ of stuff you want, but a wish list isn’t a project. A project is about connecting up all of these things and using them to tell us the difference you will make for heritage, for people and for your community. Think about it this way, that’s what HLF is buying off you – a project that makes a difference.

Delivering a project isn’t easy; you’ll need support from your volunteers and your Board; ask yourself, do you have the right governance to take on a project? Doing a project will help to develop skills but if you’re planning something big, do some groundwork first because by the time you’ve finished doing a project, you will look and feel like a very different Museum. And if you’re not ready to take on a big project? Why not start small: do something more modest and build your capacity and confidence.

HLF isn’t the answer to everything though. We can help you make changes and improvements but you have to convince us why funding is needed. You’ll have to fill in forms… and our funding is competitive… the truth is, you may not be successful. When that happens we will tell you why; listen to what we say and then think about a new application.

But don’t let competition put you off – we’ll give you the best advice we can before you apply and we have a whole range of grant programmes and guidance that can help you to develop a strong project.

If you want to get started do a project enquiry and get feedback direct from us before you apply. The project enquiry is free and informal – we just need initial thoughts to start that conversation. If it looks promising, we’ll let you know and if it doesn’t look promising, we’ll tell you that too.


From oral history work at Essex Fire Museum in Grays to the transformation of Epping Forest Museum (currently underway), the next Essex museum project we fund could be yours…

So, stop reading this and start telling us about your ideas!”

Heritage Lottery Fund

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