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Exeter’s museum wins National Lottery Heritage Fund bid to connect communities with the museum’s collections

The project will help Exeter City Council’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) better reflect Exeter people’s histories and experiences in the museum’s catalogue and online content.

For many years RAMM has carried out engagement projects with local community groups, recording their stories and thoughts about the museum’s local collections. However, the museum has not been able to link these community responses directly to the object records they refer to. This means people accessing the online catalogue are missing out on valuable local knowledge and insight. The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Dynamic Collections campaign was set up to help with just such a problem. It supports collecting organisations across the UK to become more resilient and open up their collections.

RAMM has been awarded £247,708 by the Heritage Fund, plus £10,000 from the Friends of RAMM and £5000 from the museum’s Development Trust to undertake a major project to reorganise how it catalogues its collections. The project begins in June 2023 and will run until January 2026. Titled ‘Changing Stories: Connecting and collecting with Exeter’s communities’, it will see the museum create a new digital asset management system (DAMS), which will integrate with RAMM’s collections database. The result will enable the museum to quickly generate new and topical content.

The behind the scenes work will be brought to life by new online content and innovative, co-created interpretation in RAMM’s ‘Making History’ gallery that reflects a more diverse range of people’s stories and experiences told through digital object labels with changeable content and a new film.

The South West Collections Explorer site will be rejuvenated to allow for much better user engagement and storytelling opportunities. The funding also allows RAMM to undertake new engagement work with local communities to allow their interpretations to be added to the museum object records.

Commenting on the award, Cllr Laura Wright, Exeter City Council portfolio holder for Culture and City Centre Strategy, said: ‘RAMM has a strong track record of working with communities to share new perspectives on the collections. While recent projects have been successful in opening a dialogue, we learnt through evaluation the importance participants placed on creating a lasting legacy, weaving community-generated content into the collection in a more visible way.

‘With the Heritage Fund’s support we can now start to do this. We are grateful to National Lottery players who are making the Changing Stories project possible, and to the team at RAMM, including the collections team led by Senior Collections Officer Julien Parsons, for their hard work.’

The project will also see two new fixed-term posts being created for a Digital Media Officer and Engagement Officer, as well as four University of Exeter internship placements.

The museum extends its thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, RAMM Development Trust and the Friends of RAMM for their support.