Snapping The Stiletto: Re-Examining Essex Collections


Image courtesy of Essex Police Museum

Image courtesy of Essex Police Museum

The Essex County Council Museum Development has secured a grant of £95, 445 from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund for a two year project working with museums across the county.


2018 is the Centenary of the of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave the first British women the vote, the 90th anniversary of the Equal Franchise Act 1928 which gave all women the vote and the 50th anniversary of the Dagenham Ford Worker’s Strike. These important national and local anniversaries are serving as a catalyst to explore, record and celebrate the diverse and inspirational stories of Essex women.

For the purposes of this project, we are working with partners from across “historic Essex” including those areas which are now unitary authorities or part of London, thus enabling us to tell interpret both existing collections and the stories discovered through our research as part of the wider story.

We will research and record how Essex women’s lives have changed during the last century and celebrate the stories of individual and groups of women in the county, for example Suffrage campaigners and Dagenham strikers but also women whose stories aren’t yet well known. This may include but not be limited to women who were involved in World War II, gained qualifications at a time when most women were unable to access further education, who entered male dominated professions including the services, those who moved to Essex from around the world and made a home for themselves by overcoming language and cultural differences and those who have raised families during a time of changing expectations for their gender. By highlighting women’s contributions, we will add another layer of understanding to elements of history that the public are possibly more familiar with, for example WWII, and change their perceptions of what took place. Also, through telling the stories of inspiring Essex women, we hope to weaken the negative “Essex Girl” stereotype.


Image courtesy of Southend Museums

Image courtesy of Southend Museums



The project is part of an overarching strand of work called “Snapping the Stiletto: 100 Years of Change”. We will be shortly be submitting further funding applications for oral history and other work, so there are still plenty of opportunities for heritage organisations and other groups to get involved. We will also be recruiting a large number of volunteers during 2017.


For more information, to sign up for project updates or to learn how you can get involved in the project, email




Our museum partners for “Revisiting Essex Collections” are:

  • Braintree Museums
  • Brightlingsea Museum
  • Chelmsford Museum
  • Colchester and Ipswich Museums
  • The Combined Military Services Museum
  • Epping Forest District Museum
  • Essex Fire Museum
  • Essex Police Museum
  • The Museum of Power
  • Redbridge Museum, Ilford
  • Southend Museums Service

Funding For British Science Week

On Wednesday, the British Science Association gave a presentation at the SHARE Regional Learning Network which I thought might be of interest which I thought would be of interest to many of you…

What Is The British Science Association?
British Science AssociationThe BSA, previously known as British Association for the Advancement of Science, was founded in 1831.

Like history and the arts, science has a “professional class” – people who do it for a living. However far few people see science as something you can has as a hobby or take-part in informally.  The BSA’s goal is to change this by engaging the wider public with science through events, activities and projects. The best known of these is the annual British Science Festival, which takes place in a different city each tear and dates back to 1831. However, they also offer CREST Awards for young people (which I will be writing about in another post next week), and British Science Week.

Why Is This Relevant To Museums?

The definition of “science” used by the BSA is a very broad one. It includes natural history, medicine, archaeology, forensics, engineering… in fact most museums will have something in their collection which is applicable. The BSA offer grants of up to £500 for community organisations, including museums (even local authority ones!) to run events during British Science Week that are targeted at an audience which is traditionally under-represented in science.

How Can Museums Get Involved?

The 2016 British Science Week will take place between the 11th and 20th of March. The audiences they particularly want to reach out to through their Community Grant Scheme are:

  • Black and Minority Ethnic Groups
  • Those of a low socioeconomic status
  • Young people with anti-social behaviour including those who are not in education employment or training (NEET)
  • People with a disability
  • Girls and women
  • Those living in a remote and rural location.

The application process includes a 300 word description of what you’re going to do and a further 300 words on how you’re going to recruit the target audience. Members of the target audience can also apply for the funding themselves in order to visit science venues and events.

When making decisions regarding the funding, the committee don’t take into account the number of people who will be engaged through the project however if the project is working with a smaller number of people they would expect the level of engagement to be deeper.

The fund opened for applications this week and the deadline is the 23rd of November.

There also is a separate Kick Start Grant Scheme for schools to take part in British Science Week (£300 for activities in the school, £700 for those in a school engaging the wider community) which your education partners might be interested in.

However, even if you do not apply for a grant (or are unsuccessful), you can still register a Science Week event with the BSA via their website. Organisations that do this receive a range of support including:

  • access to case studies
  • activity packs, projects and quizzes
  • marketing materials and PR
  • connections with local science volunteers

You can register your event up until middle of February.

Culture in Essex Small Grants

Participants in Saffron Walden's Egypt Project

The Culture in Essex Small Grants Schemes are funded and run by Essex County Council, offering one-off project support to arts and culture projects within Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock).
Deadlines fall on the 31 March and 31 October each year and awards of up to £2,500 are offered to projects which meet the schemes criteria. 

With plenty of time left before the October deadline, Gemma Tully from Saffron Walden Museum shares hare experiences of the scheme:
Project participantsI have experience of applying for and working on two projects funded by the ECC small grants scheme over the last 3 years. Compared to other funding applications, the ECC form is clear and straightforward and takes a matter of hours rather than days to complete. The Small Grants team and MDO are really helpful and are willing to discuss projects before you begin applying, they will also read through draft versions and/or offer advice over the phone if you ask nicely!

The two projects that we have had success with have been strongly collaborative and involved a number of individuals from different backgrounds from within Uttlesford (our local authority district).

The first project I co-ordinated was called ‘Re-imagining Egypt’. This was an art/archaeology project between the museum (and our Egyptian collection), an Egyptian artist and over 100 local school-aged children (aged 7-18) from two different local schools, one museum youth club and a local home-school group. The project focused on looking at the entire human history of Egypt, from the Stone Age up to today, and getting children to rethink their ideas of Egypt’s history so as not to see it purely as the land of the Pharaohs. The objects that we studied formed the basis of artwork that the children created with input from Khaled Hafez, an Egyptian artist, as well as museum staff. The artworks focused on different themes which run through the whole of Egyptian history: symbols/writing, the human figure, gods/religion and the use of colour in society. The artworks reinterpreted this history through these themes to represent a more inclusive vision of Egypt’s past. The children’s artworks, alongside art by the Egyptian artist Khaled Hafez and Egyptian artefacts from the Museum’s collection (as well as some artefacts loaned by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) were then incorporated into an exhibition, co-curated by the children, Khaled and museum staff, which brought together 300,000 years of Egyptian history and contemporary art works that re-imagined Egypt’s history as one integrated story, rather than simply prioritising Pharaonic Egypt above all else. The children had their own private view, designed their own posters and got involved with publicity campaigns, meaning that they also learn about the entire museum exhibition process. The exhibition was a great success, with visitor numbers increasing significantly during the 4 months the exhibition was on display. More information is available here.

Community CuratorsThe second project is currently underway. ‘Uttlesford: A community of Collectors’ is a joint curatorial venture between the museum and local residents who wanted to showcase their collections to a wider audience. After a public call was put out, a group of collectors were selected to take part in workshops, learn how to care for and curate their collections and finally exhibit and publicise them in a temporary exhibition. From walking sticks to jubilee memorabilia, animal skulls to national dolls, a range of collectors aged from 11-85 have taken part. While the first round of collectors’ exhibition is only just under way, there has already been significant interest from the local public, with many visitors coming just to see friends and families collections on display. We are currently working with the collectors who are in round two and their exhibition will open in late November of this year. Both staff and local collectors have found the experience really rewarding and learnt a great deal from each other and it is something that we are hoping to sustain in the form of a community exhibition case once this particular project draws to a close.

Saffron Walden community Exhibition


Please do visit the grants website or contact me for more information before applying.

#VolunteersWeek: Volunteering and the HLF

To mark the start of Volunteers Week 2015, Miranda Stearn, Policy Adviser, Learning and Volunteering at the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), explains how and why HLF supports volunteering activity within the projects it funds.

Making a lasting difference for heritage and people

We use money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. We support all kinds of projects, as long as they make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities. It’s not difficult to see how volunteering can play a major part in creating a lasting difference, particularly when you meet the amazing volunteers who contribute their time to heritage projects around the UK (you can read about the experiences of some of these volunteers in my Volunteers’ Week blog on the HLF website).

We describe the difference we want Lottery players’ money to make through a range of 14 outcomes. One of these is that ‘people will have volunteered time’. But volunteering clearly contributes towards many of our other outcomes too. This might be through providing expertise so that heritage sites can be better managed, by creating opportunities for people to develop skills and have an enjoyable experience, or by helping make heritage organisations more resilient.

How HLF supports volunteering

Volunteers provide excellent value for money, but we recognise that high quality, inclusive volunteering experiences come with costs. We’re happy to support some of these costs, for example:

  • volunteer training, travel and expenses
  • recruitment costs;
  • staff posts to co-ordinate and manage large numbers of volunteers
  • costs associated with making your project accessible to volunteers with additional needs

We also recognise the value of volunteers’ time to a project and we ask applicants to calculate the financial value that their volunteers bring, based on the number of days and type of activity they will contribute. The values are set out in our application guidance:

  • professional labour (e.g. accountancy or teaching) – £350 a day
  • skilled labour (e.g. leading a guided walk) – £150 a day
  • unskilled labour (e.g. being a steward at an event) – £50 a day

These values can contribute towards match funding, and can be particularly helpful for smaller organisations by helping to demonstrate value for money within their project budgets.

What to read next

You can find our top tips to ensure volunteers have the best possible experience in our good practice guidance. You can also learn from others’ experience of running an HLF project through our online case studies. One case study describes how volunteers at Bishop’s Stortford Museum researched crime on the home front during the First World War to create an exhibition and an app.

To get a fuller picture of the benefits of heritage volunteering, we commission research studies that look at the experience of volunteers involved in HLF projects. These have helped us understand who volunteers, what motivates them, and the difference volunteering makes to their lives – including the significant difference it can make to their health and wellbeing. You can read more about the research on our website.

If any of this inspires you to develop a heritage project run by volunteers or with a strong volunteering element, take a look at our website, read our application guidance, and get in touch with our East of England team.

Follow on Twitter: @HLFEoE @heritagelottery @MirandaStearn

Case Study: New Donation Box at Essex Police Museum

Donation box BEFORE the SHARED Enterprise Grant...

Donation box BEFORE the SHARED Enterprise Grant…

SHARED Enterprise is a HLF Catalyst-Funded project supporting museums throughout the East of England to explore new ways of generating income and to make better use of existing financial opportunities. Becky Wash, Curator of Essex Police Museum, talks about her recent experience of working with SHARED Enterprise and a step they’ve taken to increase their income.

The Increasing Individual Giving training session run by SHARED Enterprise allowed those on the course to apply for a grant of up to £500 to improve access to individual giving.

The Essex Police Museum costs £40,000 a year to run and has been self-funded for the last three years. The museum is a registered charity and has successfully found funding from online giving, gift aid and setting up a Payroll Giving Scheme.

The museum’s donations box – a small clear box that sat on a small table near the main entrance is the only donations box in the museum.

Although it did bring in some money we felt it was low down and easily missed by visitors.

The grant allowed us to apply for funding so we could purchase a new and improved box.

We looked at the variety of donations boxes available:

  • Donation Buckets
  • Charity Pots
  • Box with a hole for a coin or folded notes
  • Interactive donations box

Then we looked at the prices – and picked ourselves up from the floor!

We wanted something that looked professional but was affordable and meant something to our museum.

Interactive boxes are fun but they are normally filled with coppers rather than notes.

Someone suggested that we make a box from an old police helmet – but I wanted to make sure that we continued to use a transparent box.  It allows the visitor to see exactly how much is in it before they make their donation. There has been some research into the use of transparent donations boxes and this YouTube video explains a case study in more detail.

We have always and continue to leave a float of £10 in our donations box made up of a £5 note, £2 coin, 2 x £1 coins and 2 x 50p coins. It most certainly discourages any coppers (unlike our non-see through boxes which we leave at Essex Police Reception and the local corner shop). We often see a note or two in our box but the majority of coins that enter the box are gold.

So we went back to our original clear box – how could we improve it?

Essex Police Museum Donation Box

…and the donation box AFTER the grant

Our answer was to improve the box signage and to make the clear box prominent.

I contacted a carpenter friend of mine and explained what I wanted. The finished piece was a traditional looking Police Box measuring 85cm high, almost double the height of the original table.

The box most definitely stands out and we have had many positive comments, but it is early days yet to say whether the box has helped to increased donations to the museum.

The project cost £150 in total which also included the price of a new plastic box (with lock) and new signage (not seen in the photos).

#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

#FundingWeek: Essex County Council’s Cultural Grants

Re-Imagining Egypt workshop

Re-Imagining Egypt workshop at Saffron Walden Museum, funded by the Culture in Essex Small Grant Scheme

Today’s guest post is by Andrew Ward, Cultural Development Officer at Essex County Council.

“Essex County Council manages two grants schemes, the Culture in Essex Small Grants and the Cultural Strategic Grants. The Culture in Essex Small Grants offers up to £2500 for heritage and arts projects delivered in Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock) with deadlines of 31st March and 31st October. The scheme does not support applications for purely capital costs and is more geared towards enabling community focused programmes of work to take place in Essex. Local authorities cannot directly apply (although Friends groups and project partners can) and any projects with schools need to be extra-curricular.

Previous successful applicants include The Munnings Art Museum where funding was awarded to develop a nature trail on the grounds and the Saffron Walden Museum Society to support a community collection project. Saffron Walden Museum said:

“The museum is delighted to have been awarded a small grant. The additional funding will enable the Museum to dedicate the time and resources needed to work with the community of Uttlesford to create an exhibition that really brings to life the stories of numerous local people’s collections and to share these stories with the visiting public.”

Another strand of the small grants is the Personal Development Grant. This is aimed at individuals and contributes up to £250 towards personal development activities including field research, continuous professional development and project feasibility trials.

The Cultural Strategic Grants offer £2500 and above to cultural organisations who are able to deliver strategic programmes of cultural work across the county.

Only organisations can apply and need to be constituted, have appropriate health and safety and equality policies in place and have audited accounts.

The scheme is open for submissions from July 2015, with a deadline of 30th September 2015 to support programmes of work which would be delivered in the financial year of April 2016/17.

Full details of both schemes can be found here and for any queries please contact Andrew Ward, ECC Cultural Development Officer, 033301 32470,