Exhibition touring network given green light thanks to new funding

An exhibition touring network has been given the green light thanks to funding from Arts Council England and Art Fund. The Museums and Galleries Network for Exhibition Touring (MAGNET) brings together 12 partners across England, plus the Touring Exhibitions Group (TEG), to co-develop new exhibitions which will tour between partner venues.

A £336,000 Touring Projects grant from Arts Council England will enable MAGNET to develop and tour three new exhibitions, opening in 2025. £75,000 from Art Fund will help fund a three-year full-time MAGNET Coordinator post, to ensure smooth running of the network. New MAGNET partner TEG will further support the network to develop skills and knowledge, providing workshops and resources on all aspects of touring exhibitions, including an upcoming exhibition titled What Does Colour Mean To You? (working title) here at RAMM.

MAGNET aims to share collections more widely, with exhibitions being seen by many more people, as well as addressing the unsustainability of ‘single use’ exhibitions. The three-year funding period will also see MAGNET develop a sustainable business model to allow future touring to other partner venues and the creation of further exhibitions.

Nick Merriman, Chief Executive of the Horniman Museum and Gardens and MAGNET lead, says: ‘There is now real momentum and a nationwide movement to support touring exhibitions. We know that, by pooling our resources, we can offer high-quality, co-curated exhibitions that make the collections of the whole network accessible to the public in a meaningful way. Thanks to Arts Council England and Art Fund we can now continue MAGNET’s reach beyond the walls and vaults of any one museum and into local communities around the country.’

The new funding for MAGNET completes a robust framework to support touring exhibitions around the country – alongside TEG being awarded core funding by Arts Council England, the support provided by Exhibitions Tax Relief, and Art Fund’s ‘Going Places’ initiative, which was recently awarded funding by National Lottery Heritage Fund and aims to engage underrepresented audiences with museum collections through high quality, collaborative touring exhibitions and public programmes in regional museums.

Hannah Lake, Director of Touring at Arts Council England, said: ‘We are delighted to be supporting MAGNET with this Touring Project grant, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, alongside Art Fund. It’s an exciting and important opportunity for a network of museums to develop a new model for touring exhibitions. Touring in a sustainable way helps us to ensure that as many people as possible across the country – no matter where they come from or what their circumstances – have access to the best of art and culture locally in their villages, towns and cities.’

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, says: ‘MAGNET’s pilot exhibition demonstrated how museums and galleries can collaborate on ambitious exhibitions, involving communities more deeply in the process, and foregrounding environmental sustainability. This new funding commitment will enable more of our wonderful collections to be seen and enjoyed by even more people across the country in a series of exciting new exhibitions. I’m thrilled that Art Fund has helped this innovative project to come to fruition, as one of an exciting array of new initiatives supporting touring exhibitions alongside our new UK-wide programme Going Places.’

Reyahn King, Executive Director of TEG, says: ‘As TEG expands its delivery with support from Arts Council England, we are delighted to support the MAGNET network to develop their skills and knowledge, and to ensure the learning from the network is shared with the wider sector for the greatest benefit and impact.’

The three new collections-based exhibitions, to be developed in partnership by MAGNET venues, are:

  • A for Anthropocene (working title) at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery and Derby’s Museum and Art Gallery, followed later by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Manchester Museum and the Horniman
  • What Does Colour Mean To You? (working title) at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Tullie, Carlisle, and Gosport Museum and Art Gallery, followed by Sheffield Museums and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
  • Gender Stories (working title) at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, followed by World Museum Liverpool.

Each exhibition will be tailored to its touring locations using venue-specific content and programmes led by local artists and communities. All three exhibitions will open at their first venues in summer 2025.

MAGNET has secured the funding following the successful pilot of its inaugural exhibition Hair: Untold Stories, which opened at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in south London in December 2022 before touring to Tullie, and is currently at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. The pilot phase of MAGNET was funded by Art Fund as a strategic partner.

The MAGNET partners are: