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Funding for museums & galleries

Women and children looking at map representing funding for museums & galleries
Please note that this programme is currently closed and we will not be accepting new applications for 2020. For more information please read our statement on our Covid-19 Support Fund.



We support museums and galleries undertaking projects to improve the display and interpretation of nationally significant collections for the public. Grants are generally awarded towards refurbishing or creating new galleries and, occasionally, education and learning spaces.

The museum or gallery should meet all of the following criteria:

  • be operated by a registered charity or a local authority
  • be fully accredited under the Museums Accreditation Scheme
  • hold a permanent collection of national significance
    This is generally defined as holding a Designated Outstanding Collection (Arts Council England) or a Recognised Collection (Museums Galleries Scotland). Where a collection is not recognised under one of these schemes, or a national designation scheme is not in place, a strong case must be made for the significance of the collection within a national context.

Where the museum or gallery does not hold a permanent collection a clear case must be made for the significance of the exhibition programme and the work of the organisation within the sector.

The project should aim to produce one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Excellent interpretation of permanent collections of national significance
  • Better public engagement with and understanding of collections
  • Increased numbers of visitors to museums and galleries
  • Improved future sustainability of the organisation
  • Conservation of architectural heritage

What we don't fund

Examples of ineligible projects and costs include:

  • Purchase of land or existing buildings (including a building’s freehold)
  • Grants direct to individuals
  • Grants through conduit organisations
  • Overheads, maintenance costs and VAT
  • Non-specific appeals (including circulars) and endowment funds
  • Costs of meetings, exhibitions, concerts, expeditions, conferences, lectures, etc.
  • Salary costs
  • Running costs, including vehicle fuel and maintenance
  • Film, websites or promotional materials
  • Repayment of loans
  • Projects that have already been completed or will be by the time of award

How to apply

We run a two stage application process.

Stage 1:

Stage 1 applications are submitted online, via the link. Please note you will need to register an account before starting an online application.

Information that we need at this stage includes a brief description of the project, including the total cost, the current funding shortfall and the proposed timetable. It is important that the application comes with the full backing of the institution and a cover letter signed by the Chief Executive or equivalent should accompany the submission. Applications for clinical research connected to a university and an NHS Trust also should have the formal approval of the relevant university. To see the list of questions asked at Stage 1, click here.

Audited accounts for the past two years should also be submitted with the online application. The accounts provided should relate to the ongoing underlying operating activities of the organisation itself and not a related fundraising arm or charity. We undertake a financial appraisal of all applications, and you may be asked by our Finance Director to respond to specific queries.

If your Stage 1 application is successful, we will invite you to submit a Stage 2 application.

Stage 2:

Stage 2 applications are submitted to us via our online application system and by invitation only. Unless otherwise agreed, we require that at least 50% of the capital costs of the project are raised before submission (unless the project cost is under £50,000) and any necessary planning permission is in place.

Guidance on what to include in a Stage 2 application may be found here.

Stage 2 applications are sent out to expert reviewers and if questions or queries are raised, applicants are given an opportunity to respond.  Applications are then considered by an expert Panel, who make recommendations to our Trustees.

If you've applied before

If we have previously awarded your organisation a grant, we are unable to accept another application until five years have elapsed since the date your last award was offered and the new application should be for a different project. This is because our programmes are over-subscribed and we want to support as many organisations and projects as possible. You should therefore ensure that the project that you apply for is your priority over the next five years.

Universities and large charities with more than one site may be allowed to reapply more frequently but we encourage these organisations to contact us in advance.

If you have been turned down at Stage 1, you are allowed to submit a new application for a different project at any time. Please ensure that your new application meets our eligibility criteria and if you are unsure, you are welcome to phone the grants team for advice.  

If you have been turned down at Stage 2, you should wait until at least one year has elapsed before submitting a new application for a different project.

We do not normally consider the same project twice, whether or not funding was awarded.

When to apply

We run two funding rounds each year. The key dates are:

Round 1

Stage 1 application deadline: 5 January
Stage 2 application deadline: 1 March
Funding decision: June

Round 2

Stage 1 application deadline: 1 July
Stage 2 application deadlines: 1 September
Funding decision: December

If a deadline date falls during a weekend, we are happy to accept applications that arrive by 9am on the following Monday.

Grants are not made retrospectively, and so your project must be ongoing at the time that a funding decision is made (i.e. June or December).

Unless otherwise agreed, invitations to Stage 2 remain open for three funding rounds. If your Stage 1 application is successful, your invitation will specify the latest round in which you can submit a Stage 2 application

Need to know

Who can apply:
Registered or exempt charity (or equivalent) or local authority

Location of applicant and project:
UK only

Funding covers:
New build, refurbishment and equipment to improve the display and interpretation of nationally significant collections

Minimum grant amount:

Usual grant range:
£50,000 – £500,000

Match funding required:
Yes, if project cost is >£50,000

Decision dates:
June and December annually. Projects must not be completed before a funding decision is made

Wolfson funding programme:
Heritage, Humanities & the Arts

Ready to start application?

If you have checked you are eligible and understand the application process and timescale, you can start your application

Returning to your application?

If you’ve already started your application and are looking to return to continue the process, you can do so here

Contact us

Please contact us if you have a question about applying

Call: 020 7323 5730