Polar snow goggles from Discoveries at London’s 2 Temple Place, the first joint exhibition from the University of Cambridge Museums, and the first to be held outside the city.

The vision of securing Cambridge’s reputation as an international centre of museums excellence received a major boost today when Arts Council England awarded University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) nearly £4.5m for 2015-18 and continuing Major Partner Museum status.

Each collection is of global significance, adding an extraordinary dimension to our university, community and region.

Jennifer Barnes

Over the last three years, Cambridge has made full use of previous Arts Council funding to transform the way its eight major museums work in partnership, and to unlock their world-class collections for both Cambridge and the wider world.

Major successes have included the Thresholds poetry project, curated by Carol Ann Duffy, and Discoveries at 2 Temple Place in London.

Discoveries, now transferred to The Fitzwilliam Museum, is the first-ever joint exhibition to involve all University of Cambridge Museums and the first exhibition of Cambridge’s globally important research collections to be held outside the city.

And there was further good news today as Kettle’s Yard received first stage backing from Arts Council England to support the creation of a new Education Wing. The Arts Council funding, totalling £3.5m, is a substantial step towards the campaign target of £8.7m. Arts Council England have also renewed Kettle’s Yard National Portfolio Organisation status and committed £446,271 funding for the next three years.

Dr Jennifer Barnes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International Strategy), and Chair of the General Board Museums Committee, said: “These significant awards announced on the same day, recognize the essential role museums and collections play in research, teaching and understanding. Each collection is of global significance, adding an extraordinary dimension to our university, community and region. Cambridge Museums, whether working as a single collection or together, demonstrate that curating the past is about understanding the present and creating new futures. These awards allow us to share that future with all who come to Cambridge, of all ages, whether as visitors, students or researchers.”

UCM plan to use the next round of Arts Council funding to consolidate ongoing progress into understanding, widening and diversifying its audience. Major steps to achieving this have already been undertaken with imaginative learning programmes, digital innovation and deeper connections with communities both in and beyond Cambridge.

UCM is also taking the lead in joining up arts and cultural provision across the city, with Curating Cambridge – a five-week programme of cultural events and activities from October 20 – typifying this new approach.

Tim Knox, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said: “Being afforded Major Partner Museum status is a huge privilege and one we take very seriously. Arts Council England has fully supported the great strides we’ve made in recent years and, with their continued support, there is plenty of exciting work yet to be undertaken.”

Liz Hide, University of Cambridge Museums Officer, said: “Here in Cambridge, we are lucky in having many exceptional museums, each of which contribute to the academic, social and community work of the University. Our ongoing goal now is to open up the cultural riches of Cambridge to as wide and diverse an audience as possible.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “We are pleased to continue supporting University of Cambridge Museums. It proposes to deliver an ambitious and broad ranging programme of activity that will support transformational access to its key collections. Its programme of activity will help further develop its position as a leading centre of excellence for conservation and collections based research. It will also continue to build on its pioneering community and lifelong learning programmes, whilst also establishing itself as a centre for innovative digital engagement. University of Cambridge Museums also plans to reach more children and young people, with a particular emphasis on using digital platforms, ensuring they have the opportunity to engage with and be inspired by its collections. This work will be underpinned by its exemplar commitment to environmental sustainability, resilience and its support for museums and gallery career and workforce development.”

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