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2019 COMMUNITY HERITAGE GRANTS ASSESSMENT REPORT
- Tania Cleary (Tania Cleary Museum Services)
- Denyl Cloughley (NLA)
- Tamara Lavrencic (Museums and Galleries NSW)
- Rebecca Penna (NAA)
- Mark Piva (NLA)
- Jennifer Plumstead (Department of Communications and the Arts)
- Prue Castles (NMA)
- Mona Soleymani (NFSA)
- Rosemary Turner (NLA) (Chair)
- Fran D’Castro (CHG Coordinator) & Margaret Thompson (CHG Assistant)
In 2019, the Community Heritage Grants program received 135 applications. Sixty one applications were selected for funding.
All eligible applications were initially assessed by two external consultant assessors. Tania Cleary assessed the national significance of the collection. Short-listed applications were then sent to Tamara Lavrencic who assessed each project’s feasibility, value-for-money and the degree to which the project might benefit the collection.
Training projects were assessed primarily on the merits of the proposal including: the expected benefits; the quality and appropriateness of the training; the credentials of the trainers and the perceived value-for-money of the proposal. The national significance of the collection material that will benefit from the training is still important to the assessment.
A second short-list of applications underwent further consideration and a final funding recommendation was made by a panel of expert assessors comprising historians, preservation specialists, representatives from cultural collecting organisations and the CHG partners. The assessment panel considers the reports of the first two assessors as well as each application individually.
This report provides general feedback from the CHG assessors.
Tania Cleary (Significance Assessor)
This year I assessed 130 applications. I followed the same assessment procedure as previous years: an initial reading of the application to understand the organisation and the project, a second reading to understand the collection and the claim for national significance, a third reading to assign the national significance rank to the collection.
Before the national significance rank was finalised I reread the support documentation and attachments and if a Significance Assessment report and/or a Preservation Needs Assessment was part of the application I cross-checked the collection described in the application with the collection described in the report(s), noting any anomalies or discrepancies.
For National Significance I referenced the ‘significance statement’ from the Significance Assessment report and, if no statement for the whole collection was provided, I noted which of the four primary and five comparative criteria listed in Significance 2.0 was used to support the assessor’s evaluation. I also considered whether the applicant had, to the best of their ability, addressed some or all of the CHG prompt questions listed in the application form and if the claim for national significance claim was poor or not attempted. In all cases I assigned the national significance rank to the ‘entire’ collection as per the description provided in the application unless a component of the collection, or a single object or group of objects were nominated. Those cases were included under the heading Subject of Application. I included the relevant assessor comment(s) and information to support the national significance rank in the SmartyGrants Assessment window.
At the end of the assessment process I reviewed all of the applications to ensure that I had maintained a consistency of approach throughout the process. During this review stage I also highlighted any collection management concerns or issues pertaining to collection, cataloguing, project budget line items, public access and staffing. I noted where the same organisation (or parent body) had requested CHG funds for multiple projects and in cases where applicants sought funds for a PNA and/or conservation materials or conservation treatments, I made reference to the relevant section of the SA and/or PNA. Finally, I submitted the applications in one batch at the end of the review process.
The final ‘national’ significance rank pays attention to factors such as a previous assessment rank, the conclusions of a recently completed significance assessment and my assessment against the CHG threshold criteria:
A - the collection is of ‘national’ significance because the applicant could demonstrate the collection had historic, social, spiritual, scientific or research significance. The applicant could also demonstrate that the collection contained rare or unique material with a clear and strong provenance, was in good condition or had interpretive potential;
B - the collection was less nationally significant, however it could demonstrate historic, social, spiritual, scientific or research significance in addition to sound provenance and interpretive potential;
C - the collection may be of ‘national significance, but the application did not express this well, or the collection demonstrates historic and social significance, good provenance and interpretive potential however the application lacked adequate supporting information; and
D - the collection has clear local or regional significance. The collections demonstrated historical or social significance to a smaller community, they demonstrated poorer or limited provenance and interpretive potential. These applications are excluded from further consideration.
This year the CHG program attracted applications from:
- new organisations;
- organisations that have been successful in previous grant rounds; and
- organisations that were unsuccessful in previous grant rounds.
There was a small increase in the total number of applications assessed in
2019 - 130 as compared with 116 assessed in 2018. Of these, 42 applications were from organisations based in New South Wales (up from 37); 36 applications from Victorian organisations (up from 26); 12 applications from South Australian organisations (up from 8); 12 applications from organisations based in Queensland (same as 2018); 6 from organisations based in the ACT (up from 3); 14 applications from Western Australian organisations (down from 15); 3 from Tasmanian organisations (down from 4); 4 from the Northern Territory (down from 11) and one from Norfolk Island.
The geographic and sector spread reflects established distribution patterns with approximately one third of the applications coming from community organisations in New South Wales (volunteer-run historical and specialist societies, public institutions with paid staff with professional qualifications: regional galleries, regional museums, city or local council libraries and archives), followed by slightly less than one third coming from Victorian organisations. Around thirty percent of the applications are from organisations based in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia (approximately ten percent per state) while Tasmania, Northern Territory, the ACT and Norfolk Island account for the final ten percent.
Regardless of state or territory most of the applicants emphasised how they would like to increase the relevance and value of their collection to the community and they appreciated that a Significance Assessment was a key mechanism through which this could be achieved. Increasing the relevance and value of the collection also required a focus on collections management and collection cataloguing and this year there was a noticeable improvement on collection description. That not only supported the applicant’s ability to make a claim for ‘national significance’ it also, reduced number of applications ranked ‘C’ because they lacked sufficient collection information.
This year 29 of the 130 applications (or 22%) were from organisations requesting a Community Heritage Grant for the first time. Eleven collections (or 38%) met the threshold for A - C national significance rank. The fourteen applications (or 48%) assigned a D national significance rank included: collections described in general terms, collections not catalogued or only partially catalogued, collections with unstructured or miscellaneous content, collections with local or regional focus (in both the geographic sense and social sense), collections with limited or no public access and collections with little capacity for audience engagement through exhibition or other means of interpretation. Four organisation (or 14%) in this category applied for training projects.
This year there was an increase in the total number of applications requesting CHG funds for training projects. I assessed 11 training projects, paying attention to the merits of the proposal, the quality and appropriateness of the training, the credentials of the trainer and the perceived value for money. I was asked to make the following recommendations:
A - Fund
B – Fund if funds permit
C – Do not fund
In assessing the training projects, I read the training quotations and associated documentation and made a recommendation as per the pre-determined A-C scale. I supported projects where a compelling ‘need’ case was mounted for specific training and the training represented effective service delivery and value for money. Training also scored a high recommendation if it provided a solid support for staff and volunteers engaged in a range of tasks identified in a Significance Assessment or a Preservation Needs Assessment.
Overall, the training applications demonstrate there is great awareness in organisations of the need for continual professional development to improve collection management accountability. The noticeable shift this year is to digitisation training with approximately half of the applicants seeking funds to upskill staff as a result of a PNA recommendation to digitise paper based materials to minimise handling risks and improve public access. Given the highly technical nature of digitisation, harmonised training across the country and adherence to industry standards, are a paramount concern.
That community organisations have the capability to improve museum standards and manage collections better is largely thanks to the Community Heritage Grant program’s way of supporting them. Current activities demonstrate that the Significance Assessment reports, Preservation Needs Assessment reports and training to improve skillsets are meeting the needs of community organisations. There can be no doubt that the Community Heritage Grant program is an increasingly vital lifeline for many organisations and that the SA and PNA are two of the most effective means of providing assistance.
Tamara Lavrencic (Budget & Feasibility Assessor)
I assessed 103 applications received for the 2019 CHG program. Nearly fifty percent of the applications were requesting funding for Significance Assessment or Preservation Needs Assessment. Ninety one of the applications had been ranked A or B for national significance by Tania Cleary. This figure includes the 12 applications for training/workshops.
I assessed each application in terms of budget and overall feasibility of the proposed preservation project, and provided comment on the quality of benefit to the collection, feasibility of the project and value for money. I also assessed each training project on the merits of the proposal, the quality and appropriateness of the training, the credentials of the trainer and the perceived value for money of the proposal.
The number of applications for training projects increased a little and the quality of most of the applications in this category was high. Issues that affected the rankings most strongly was lack of quotes and not identifying presenters. In one case I suspect that this was overlooked in a last minute submission.
As always it’s been a pleasure and an honour to be involved with this highly valued program and the many people who contribute to and benefit from it.
- Organisations that were able to prepare a more considered response to Section 6 National Significance usually succeeded in satisfying the criterion ‘may be nationally significant’.
- Applications that clearly and concisely describe the significance of the collection, public access arrangements and exactly why the funding is required and what it will achieve, supported by a well-considered budget are more likely to succeed.
- Do not leave writing or submitting applications to the last minute. Allow enough time to proof read the application and double check spelling and budget calculations.
- Applications that are proceeding through a planned, staged process are strongly supported, e.g. commencing with a Significance Assessment, then Preservation Needs Assessment (PNA), and then implementation of recommendations prioritised in the PNA.
- Always include quotes to support your budget, unless you are applying for the standard fee for a Significance or Preservation Needs Assessment. A considerable number of applications omitted to include quotes or provide sufficient detail of the funding requirements of the proposed project.
- Don’t request miscellaneous budget items to take a grant request up to the maximum $15,000. Ask for what is needed, making sure it is well researched and supported by quotes.
- As outlined in the CHG guidelines, public access is taken into consideration. Collections that are accessible to the general public are more likely to be considered for funding than collections that have limited accessibility.
- The use of a museum professional such as a Museum Development Officer or an Australian Museums and Galleries Association Officer to assist with the completion of the application often results in a more considered application.
- Training projects that involve and benefit several groups or organisations are strongly supported.
- Organisations applying for funding for digitisation projects should investigate the options for using a commercial digitisation service prior to applying for funding. This can help organisations evaluate their options for best completing the project.
- Digitisation projects where the outcome is partly or fully for preservation should include information on how the digital data will be managed into the future so that it remains accessible.
- Digitisation projects should also address how the originals will be preserved.
- Projects to duplicate (either in analogue or digital format) audio-visual recordings, including private recordings of public performances, need to include evidence that the proposers of the project have rights clearance to do so.
- Organisations considering applying for funding for collection management software should investigate freeware software (software that is available free on the Internet) and seek advice as to suitability for their needs.
- Ensure that your response to the section of the CHG Application form about the size of the collection is completed adequately. Without this information, it is difficult to assess the significance of the collection, the feasibility of achieving the project outcome and the value for money of the project.
- Applicants must answer the section of the CHG Application form relating to the funding of their organisation. The assessment panel give consideration to whether or not the project could go ahead without the support of a grant.
- General character references and political letters of support add very little value to an application. Letters of support by curators, researchers, historians, conservators, librarians and other heritage professionals carry more weight, especially if they articulate a real understanding and familiarity with the collection that is the subject of the application.
- Consult Significance: a guide to assessing the significance of collections 2.0. Applicants could improve their applications, and their significance statements in section 10, by focusing on the significance criteria and including at least some reference to the terms: historic, social, research, scientific, spiritual, rare, representative, and interpretive and condition.
- Statements of significance in section 10 should relate to the specific component of the collection to which the application applies. For example, don’t describe the significance of the building/books/archives when seeking funding for a textiles collection.
- Photographic collections: include as much information as possible about photographic collections. For example, are the photographs originals or copies? Does the organisation own the copyright? Can people, places and events be identified and described? Who was the photographer? What is the condition of the photographs? Applicants often fail to link the subject matter of the photographs to their significance.
- Indigenous collections: identify the region the cultural material comes from, the production date, how it was acquired and why it is significant to the community and the nation.
- Military collections: provide as much detail as possible on the provenance and use of military collections. For example, does the material have significance to a particular unit, battalion or conflict? What is the purpose of the collection – research or display? Has the collection been used in the past and who has access to it?
- Paper based collections: where possible, provide details on the nature of any paper based collections. For example is the book/map/plan/record/document held in other collections? Is the material an original or a recently obtained copy? Are books held in other library collections? How has the material been used by the organisation? Who has access to the collection?
- Local history collections: many local history collections sound similar on paper. Distinguish the collection by establishing the connections between their collection, the history of the area and the significance criteria.
- Multicultural community groups: ascertain if a similar cultural group already exists in your city, state or interstate. it is difficult to assess significance without knowing what other similar collections might exist and how they might be regarded as different.
- If the organisation or archives belongs to a particular network, for example a church archivists group or a school archivists group, use these networks to consider and assess the significance of the collections together. On paper, many of these collections appear to hold very similar material – coordinating significance research would identify collections that would benefit most from grant funding.
All applicants are encouraged to contact the CHG office to obtain specific feedback on their applications:
Community Heritage Grants
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600
02 6262 1147
CHG is funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Communications and the Arts; the National Library of Australia; the National Archives of Australia; the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia.