About Us

Towards a National Collection is a major five-year £18.9 million investment in the UK’s world-renowned museums, archives, libraries and galleries. Funding is provided through UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The programme will take the first steps towards creating a unified virtual ‘national collection’ by dissolving barriers between different collections – opening UK heritage to the world. By seizing the opportunity presented by new digital technology, it will allow researchers to formulate radically new research questions, increase visitor numbers, dramatically expand and diversify virtual access to our heritage, and bring clear economic, social and health benefits to communities across the UK. The innovation driven by the programme will maintain the UK’s world leadership in digital humanities and set global standards in the field.

The Programme’s main objectives are:

  • to begin to dissolve barriers between different collections
  • to open up collections to new cross-disciplinary and cross-collection lines of research
  • to extend researcher and public access beyond the physical boundaries of their location
  • to benefit a diverse range of audiences
  • to be active and of benefit across the UK
  • to provide clear evidence and exemplars that support enhanced funding going forward

Aims of the Programme

The aim of the programme is to begin to dissolve barriers between different collections, opening them up to new cross-disciplinary and cross-collection lines of research, and to extend researcher and public access beyond the physical boundaries of their location, thus directly addressing the issues related to accessibility beyond current metropolitan centres. The programme will extend across the UK including all the devolved nations, and will potentially have a global reach in terms of setting a standard for other countries building their own collections (with the long-term potential for inter-connection between the national collections).

This programme will have a transformative impact on:

  • Digital search and cataloguing tools, technologies and methodologies, and associated issues
  • Research capability, by enabling search across collections to address cross-cutting research questions which will allow UK to maintain UK leadership in cross-disciplinary research
  • The heritage sector as a whole, in terms of enhancing access for researchers, and for facilitating wider and better-informed public engagement

There are two rounds of funding calls – the Foundation Projects and the Discovery Projects.

Programme Directorate

Rebecca Bailey

Rebecca Bailey

Towards a National Collection Programme Director

Based at Historic Environment Scotland, where she was Head of Exhibitions and Outreach, Rebecca is leading the SPF programme, drawing together the projects funded and developing future recommendations.

Colin McDowall

Colin McDowall

Communication & Event Co-ordinator

A PhD graduate from the University of Glasgow, Colin worked previously at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. Over seven years he was the beneficiary of two Wellcome Trust funded grants (digitisation and cataloguing) as well being involved in the library's exhibition and refurbishment projects.

Carlotta Paltrinieri

Carlotta Paltrinieri

Senior Researcher

After her PhD at Indiana University Bloomington, Carlotta was the Assistant Director of the Medici Archive Project, helping to digitise Renaissance archives in Florence. She has held research fellowships from the University of Cork, the Max Planck Institute for Art History, and the Institute of Modern Languages Research.


Towards a National Collection Steering Committee

Chair: Roly Keating (British Library) Maria Balshaw (Tate) Tilly Blyth (Science Museum Group) Caroline Campbell (The National Gallery) Gus Casely-Hayford (V&A East) Richard Deverell (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) Catherine Eagleton (St Andrews University Libraries and Museums) Andrew Ellis (Art UK) Hartwig Fischer (British Museum) Camilla Hampshire (Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter) Edward Harcourt – Senior Responsible Officer (AHRC) Dafydd James (National Museum Wales/Amgueddfa Cenedlaethol Cymru) Sabyasachi Mukherjee (CSMVS Mumbai) Kate Bellamy (Arts Council of England) Ross Parry (University of Leicester) Laura Pye (National Museums Liverpool) John Scally (National Library of Scotland) Emma Squire (DCMS) & Tom Rodden (DCMS) Kathryn Thomson (National Museums Northern Ireland) Johannes Vogel (Natural History Museum Berlin) Sohair Wastawy (Information Guild Consulting Group)