Research opportunities  Collections Research Fund

Uncover the past and shape the future with the Collections Research Fund (CRF), offering academics a chance to apply research methods to world-class museum collections alongside specialist curators. 

  • Applications open after the information session on 22 February 2024
  • Deadline to apply: 19 April 2024
  • Who can apply: Academics from all schools and faculties at the University of Leeds
  • Online information session: 22 February 12pm to 1.30pm. Register your interest in the event via the expression of interest form.
  • Duration of project: Project must come to an end by 31 July 2025 

About the fund 

The Collections Research Fund, formerly known as the Cross Disciplinary Innovation Fund, is a collaborative initiative between the Cultural Institute and Leeds Museums and Galleries (LMG).

The Fund facilitates collaboration between academics and curators, providing support for their joint efforts in researching areas within Leeds Museum and Galleries' nationally recognised collections. 

About Leeds Museums and Galleries (LMG) 

LMG is one of the largest local authority museum services in the country and LMG’s collections of over one million objects collected since 1819 give insights into the evolving natural world, human history and culture. These collections are continually added to reflect Leeds as a vibrant and changing city and to place Leeds in a global context. 

The LMG collections of natural science, fine and decorative art and industrial history have been designated as collections of national significance. They also have substantial and noteworthy collections of archaeology, coins and medals, dress and textiles, social history and world cultures. 

Who is the fund for? 

This opportunity is open to academics from all University of Leeds faculties interested in applying interdisciplinary research methods with specialised curatorial teams. 

Over the last 5 years, we have supported 16 projects, with 37.5% originating from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, 25% from the Faculty of Environment, 19% from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and the remainder 18.5% distributed across faculties such as Biology, Leeds Business School, and Social Sciences. 

We invite applications from all faculties, as the essence of this fund is to develop and apply interdisciplinary research approaches to collections. 

Eligibility 

University of Leeds partners must seek the support of their Head of School. Academics must be on a contract that extends beyond the end date of their project to lead an application. PhD candidates can be part of a project team but cannot lead a project. Applications must be made jointly with a Leeds Museums and Galleries curator(s). 

How much is available? 

Four to six awards of £1,000-£1,500 each.  

Funding covers activity costs, including internships, materials, specialist skills, equipment hire, documentation, travel, and subsistence. 

Funding needs to be spent by 31 July 2025. 

What are we looking for? 

We are looking for proposals that present innovative perspectives and research approaches to the collections in ways not seen before. This might include applying new interdisciplinary research methods into collections, specific research projects, or making new research connections between different subject areas.

Proposals should foster outcomes that collaborators couldn't attain independently, creating a mutually beneficial partnership. 

The fund can be used for public facing and non-public facing work.  

Summary of previous projects areas 

In the past we have funded a variety of projects in the following areas:  

  • Diverse Interpretations of Historical Photography: Exploration of glass slides and materials from photographer Charles Barker Howdill, shedding light on early 20th-century perceptions. 
  • Sonic Explorations of Artistic Drawings: Sonic exploration of landscape drawings from artist Darrell Viner, resulting in musical composition and software development. 
  • Interdisciplinary Investigations into Infrastructure Development: Initiatives examining 19th-century reservoir development for Leeds' industrial growth. 
  • Botanical Preservation Studies with Social Implications: Investigations into alkaloid preservation in herbarium specimens, influencing broader research agendas. 
  • Exploring Social History Through Clothing: Interdisciplinary explorations into regional social history through women's experiences with everyday clothing. 
  • Chemical Bronze Patina Assessments: Understanding the chemical composition, interactions, and long-term performance of bronze patinas induced during restoration works. 
  • Microscopic Insights into Needlework in Historical Furniture: Utilising light microscopy to gain new insights into needlework on historical furniture, enhancing cataloguing efforts, and facilitating public engagement events exploring raw components of the collection.

How the process works

Interested academics are invited to attend the 'Meet the Curator' online session on 22 February 12pm to 1.30pm to gain insights into the curatorial teams and their collections. Register your interest in the event via the expression of interest form.

During the session, academics and curators will explore potential collaborative ideas. Academics are welcome to work with one or more curators and their collections on a project. 

If you cannot attend the event, we ask you to complete the expression of interest form so that we can see the areas you’re interested in exploring, and arrange a call with yourself and relevant curators.

Once curators and academics decide on a project idea, we invite them to apply by 19 April. Applications will open after 22 February.

If you have any questions, please email the Cultural Institute at culturalinstitute@leeds.ac.uk.

Introducing the curators and their collections

Natural Science

Curator: Clare Brown. Email Clare Brown at clare.brown@leeds.gov.uk.

Collection overview:

  • Designated, international collection of geology, botany and zoology spanning two centuries of collecting (~800,000 objects)
  • Particularly important mollusc and plant (mainly Yorkshire) collections
  • Collections allow temporal, as well as spatial, interrogation of the natural environment (e.g. 200+ years of pollutants, isotopes and DNA all present in the specimens) 
  • Large associated archive of notes and correspondence detailing collectors and collecting over two centuries. We are currently using this to explore the social and colonial histories of some of our objects
  • Collections include extinct and endangered species – thylacine, dodo, carolina parakeet, lady’s slipper orchid, etc. 

Industrial History 

Curator: John McGoldrick  

Collection: Designated textile, engineering and railway collections, also encompassing tanning, printing, optics collections and instruments and tools collections. The archive collection is a rich source of reference for the development of Leeds industrial firms’ branding from c1850-1980.  

Areas of particular interest: 

  • The marketing and export of Leeds railway and engineering products to colonial territories
  • The role of industrial heritage in addressing the social dislocation caused by de-industrialisation.  

Current projects: 

  • Civil engineering and the ‘public good’. Current exhibition with partners at Smeaton 300
  • We have recently been a partner in the Slavery and Steam: Steam Power, Railways and Colonialism project
  • John co-curated the ‘Living with Machines’ exhibition, a collaboration between the British Library and Leeds Museums and Galleries, held at Leeds City Museum between July 2022 and January 2023. 

Leeds and Social History 

Curator: Kitty Ross. Email Kitty Ross at kitty.ross@leeds.gov.uk.

All areas of the city’s social history, including contemporary collecting. 

Current projects include:  

  • The Power of Persuasion exhibition at Abbey House Museum, a nostalgic and critical look at the history of advertising and branding in Leeds and beyond (20 January to 31 December 2024)
  • Digitising our glass slide collection
  • Legacies of the Sounds of Our City exhibition which focused on music in Leeds, including the performance of sheet music from the collection. 

World Cultures 

Curator: Adam Jaffer. Email Adam Jaffer at adam.jaffer@leeds.gov.uk.

World Cultures encompasses collections from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. 

Current and upcoming projects: 

  • Focus areas for 2023 include deepening our understanding of Leeds’s African collections and the donors who acquired them, with a view to decolonising our approach to collections interpretation. This also involves work with Leeds’ African communities and potentially contacts overseas
  • A further area is looking at cross-cultural approaches to death, dying and bereavement in relation to an exhibition at Leeds City Museum which opens in May 2024.  

Leeds Sporting Heritage 

Project Curator: Catherine Robins. Email Catherine Robins at catherine.robins@leeds.gov.uk

Since January 2022 we have been running a project around Leeds Sporting Heritage. We want to broaden the representation of sport across Leeds Museums and Galleries collections. This work is currently funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and will involve digital media, some object acquisitions and other public facing outputs/partnerships.  

Linked to this project, areas of interest include:  

  • Using technology to capture peoples experience of sport and/or enhance our interpretation of physical collections
  • Technology linked to sporting activities (e.g. items used for training or adapted technologies for people with disabilities)
  • Materials/clothing design and manufacture (i.e. anything around the development in sportswear, maybe for social reasons or as a way to enhance performance)
  • History of sport/s in Leeds (any and everything, but e.g. what sports were popular when, social and economic impacts of sport on the city, how immigration has influenced sport in the city)
  • Identity and sport
  • Art and sport (art celebrating sport, merging of audiences, exploring sport through art).

Archaeology and Numismatics 

Curator: Kat Baxter. Email Kat Baxter at katherine.baxter@leeds.gov.uk.

The archaeology collection is made up of thousands of objects excavated from the Leeds area, representing periods of time from the Palaeolithic (‘Old Stone Age’) to the 1800s. There are also significant collections from overseas, including artefacts from ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece. The numismatics collection is made up of coins, both ancient and modern, tokens, and other objects relating to spending, as well as military and commemorative medals.  

Current and future projects include:  

  • Researching donors of overseas archaeological material acquired in the 1800s and 1900s, decolonisation, telling full stories
  • Human remains in museums, ethics, visitor responses and access
  • Using archaeological objects to talk about death, dying and bereavement (linked to an exhibition opening in May 2024)
  • New ways of interpreting Kirkstall Abbey.  

Decorative Arts and Historic Houses  

Curator: Adam Toole. Email Adam Toole at adam.toole@leeds.gov.uk.

The decorative arts collection comprises furniture, ceramics, metalwork, object d’art, glass, wallpaper and archival material displayed and stored across two historic country houses, Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall. Both sites contain collections previously housed there when private houses and are used to tell the social history of each property, however the vast majority of objects have other provenances, acquired to form a major collection surveying British decorative arts from the Tudor period to the present day.  

Current and future projects might include:  

  • Further scoping and mapping of links to colonialism and slavery both in respect to previous owners/patrons/donors of collections and use of materials  
  • Cataloguing and digitisation of important archives to improve and broaden access (e.g. an important collection of country house sale catalogues)  
  • Further research into Temple Newsam’s modern art exhibitions in the second World War and the post war period  
  • Analysis of materials and techniques used in collection items.

Fine Art 

Curator: Nigel Walsh. Email Nigel Walsh at nigel.walsh@leeds.gov.uk.  

The Leeds Museums and Galleries’ fine art collections are Designated as being of national and international significance. The collection has particular strengths in the areas of 18th and early 19th century English watercolours and 20th century British Art.

There are also significant holdings of late 19th century pictures including Victorian narrative painting, high quality French paintings and notable examples of contemporary artists’ moving image works from the 1990s. There are approximately 1,300 oil paintings, 3,000 English watercolours and 2,000 prints. We continue to acquire for the collection, both historic and contemporary works.

Sculpture 

Assistant Curator: Clare Nadal. Email Clare Nadal at clare.nadal@leeds.gov.uk.

The Leeds sculpture collections comprise over 800 objects, 400 works on paper together with the archive of sculptors’ papers. The collection continues to develop and we collaborate on this with colleagues at the Henry Moore Institute on this as part of our long-term partnership. The sculpture collection is part of LMG’s wider Designated fine art collection.

If you have any questions, please email the Cultural Institute at culturalinstitute@leeds.ac.uk.