What is a Designated collection?

By Culture24 Staff | 01 October 2009
a photo of a collection of colourful insects in a case

(Above) A Display of Insects from the Museum of Natural History, Oxford

What do the following objects have in common? The Boot and Shoe collection at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery; the tanks at Bovington's Tank Museum; DH Lawrence's personal papers at Nottingham University and the Arts and Crafts collection at Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery.

Maybe nothing at first glance, but they have all been awarded an important accolade known as Designation. The Designation Scheme is administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), celebrating the most outstanding collections in England's non-national institutions for their quality and significance.

"Designated collections provide people with inspiration, enjoyment, understanding and knowledge," says MLA Designation Manager Paula Brikci. "They inform us about our forebears, they can provide a sense of community and place and they can contribute to local, regional and national wealth through support for learning and skills development.

"Visiting a Designated collection offers visitors a fascinating insight into English history," she adds. "It brings the past to life and shows how these collections have helped shape our contemporary life through some of the finest displays on a given subject matter."

a photograph of a highly ornate bedroom with a four poster bed

The State Bedroom at Harewood House.

According to Paula, Designation status can also help organisations protect against the neglect of the nation's treasures.

"They can use this status to promote their collections, to raise funds to support and develop the collection and to work with other cultural organisations," she says.

"The MLA works with and on behalf of Designated collections, providing direct support as well as promoting the importance of this status to make sure they are safeguarded and available to current and future generations.

"They can also contribute to important heritage initiatives such as the Cultural Olympiad and Museums at Night."

If you are a museum, library or archive and would like to apply for Designation status, visit the MLA website

designation logo with photo of a woman looking at displays

Find out about the Designated collections at the Horniman Museum with Culture24's introduction to the Horniman Designated collection series.

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