Museum Development Support

The Designation Scheme, run by Arts Council England, identifies the pre-eminent collections of national and international importance held in England's non-national museums, libraries and archives, based on their quality and significance. These inspiring collections represent a vital part of our national cultural and artistic heritage.

There are currently 140 Designated Collections held in organisations across England. Read more about them in the Designated Collections list (pdf from external website, opens in new window).

Designation Review Information

Please note that the Designation Scheme is currently undergoing a review and during this period is closed to new applications. Please see the Arts Council England website for information about the reopening of the Scheme.

The review of Designation considered the purpose and principles of the Scheme to establish its effectiveness as a means of identifying vitally important cultural collections.

Arts Council England's clear vision of the power of Designation and the plans for the future of the Scheme have been laid out in the publication ‘Pearls and Wisdom’. These plans will enable the Scheme to thrive and will focus attention on these exceptional and outstanding collections. The publication is based on recommendations from an extensive consultation. This consultation showed that Designation continues to be greatly valued, and that the founding principles of identifying and celebrating the best collections should be repositioned as the foundation for future awards.

Read the publication Pearls and Wisdom (pdf from external website)

Prior to the creation of the publication, the Arts Council commissioned an independent survey to gather opinions about the purposes, principles and future of the Designation Scheme.

Read the Designation Review - Results from a Survey of Stakeholders (pdf from external website)

Using the findings of the survey as well as points raised during key stakeholder conversations and discussions within the Arts Council, a proposal on the future of the Scheme has been developed.

Read the document Designation Scheme - a proposal for its future (pdf from external website, opens in new window)

Arts Council England are currently reviewing feedback on the proposals and are developing governance and process.

About the Designation Scheme

The scheme was launched in 1997 and now recognises 140 collections held in museums, libraries and archives, it recognises that organisations with Designated collections care for a significant part of England’s cultural heritage and sets out to raise standards across the sector.

Organisations holding Designated collections are expected to work towards the provision of high-quality services which deliver the fullest possible access to those collections and to take a leadership role in the sector by helping other institutions in such ways as sharing expertise, offering advice and lending objects or materials.

For further information please contact Paula Brikci (Arts Council England, Manager, Designation and PRISM Fund) or Sarah Waldron (Assistant, Designation and PRISM Fund):
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Enquiries tel: 0845 300 6200

Promoting Designated collections

Arts Council England have created a toolkit to help you promote your Designated collections. It can supplement resources provided by communications colleagues, and provides easy-to-follow tips and templates.

Use the Promoting Designated Collections toolkit (pdf from external website, opens in new window)

Designation development fund

Designation development funding supports projects that improve museum collections for the benefit of audiences, developing greater public understanding and engagement, while at the same time increasing sustainability. It also supports museums to share best practice with other organisations across the sector.
The current 2014-16 round of Designation development funding is now closed.

For more information about the Fund and the successful applications, visit the Designation development funding webpage on the Arts Council's website.


The Collections Trust works in partnership with Museum Development Officers and the Museum Development Network to promote and support best practice in Collections Management. 

For information about Accreditation, please visit the Accreditation section.

For information about the Designation Scheme, please see the Designation Scheme homepage.

Useful websites and networks

image: collections governance termsThis Position Statement has been published by the Collections Trust in response to requests received from English museums relating to the transfer of ownership of collections information ('documentation') during the transition from Local Authority support to independent Trust status.