20/20 Project

Birmingham Museums Trust is partner on the University of the Arts London Decolonising Arts Institute 20/20 project: an ambitious 3-year programme combining artist residencies with artistic commissioning at scale, funded by funding from Freelands Foundation, Arts Council England and UAL. 20/20 is bringing together 20 emerging artists of colour and 20 UK public art collections, leading to 20 new permanent acquisitions. BMT will be taking part in the second tranche of residencies, with artist applications opening in January 2023.

Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage

We are also working with University of the Arts London Decolonising Arts Institute as part of ‘Transforming Collections: Reimagining Art, Nation and Heritage’. Transforming Collections is a 3-year project led by Dr usan pui san lok, UAL Professor of Contemporary Art and Director of the Decolonising Arts Institute. It’s 1 of 5 national Discovery Projects announced by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in September 2021 as part of Towards a National Collection (TaNC): a 5-year research and development programme harnessing the potential of new technology to dissolve barriers between collections.

Combining critical art historical and museological research with participatory machine learning design, this research seeks to enable online cross-search of collections, surface patterns of bias and uncover hidden connections, to generate new narratives around art, nation and heritage. Its aims are to surface suppressed histories, amplify marginalised voices and re-evaluate artists and artworks ignored or sidelined by dominant narratives. And to begin to imagine a distributed yet connected evolving ‘national collection’ that builds on and enriches existing knowledge, with multiple and multivocal narratives.

The Congruence Engine: Digital Tools for New Collections-Based Industrial Histories

Birmingham Museums Trust is a partner on ‘The Congruence Engine: digital tools for new collections-based industrial histories’. This three-year project led by Dr Tim Boon at the Science Museum Group is one of the five Discovery Projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Towards a National Collection: Opening UK Heritage to the World fund. The project aims to use the latest digital techniques to connect industrial history collections held in different locations. Over the three years, project co-investigators and partner organisations will participate in explorations of their textiles, energy and communications collections. Through these iterative research cycles, project participants will use both traditional ‘hand-stitching’ research tools and experiment with new computational and AI techniques to develop a digital toolbox for historians and curators to use to explore the connections and congruences within the distributed national industrial collection. Due to the strengths of Birmingham’s collection, our involvement in the project will be particularly focused on the energy and communications research strands. You can follow the Congruence Engine blog for updates as the project progresses.

Race, Empire & the Pre-Raphaelites

Race, Empire & the Pre-Raphaelites is a research group of the British Art Network, founded in 2020. Led by Victoria Osborne at BMT, Kate Nichols at the University of Birmingham and Sabrina Rahman at the University of Exeter, the group brings together museum workers, academics and artists to explore the global contexts of Victorian art and design, particularly in relation to ideologies of Orientalism and Empire. It uses Birmingham's rich collections as a starting point for broader conversations about how Victorian art and design might be explored with and for contemporary museum audiences.

An open sketch book with a postcard of a painting on one side, and a similar but different drawing on the other side. Both feature a man and woman holding hands and staring forwards. They are dressed warmly in coats and hats.
Donald Rodney, Sketchbook no.1: sketch titled ‘First of England’, 1983 (Tate Archive TGA 200321/3/1) artwork © The estate of Donald Rodney digital image © Tate released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND