Subject Specialist Network For Islamic Art And Material Culture Calligraphy Support Scheme 2019/20

Posted on: 27 August 2019

The calligraphy support scheme aims to provide regional museums with specialist and practical support to help them unlock the potential of their collections of Islamic Art & Material Culture (IAMC) and use them to engage with new and diverse audiences. Funding is provided through an ACE Grant awarded to the SSN for Islamic Art & Material Culture.

This scheme focuses on Calligraphy in Arabic script on a range of object types. Through an open application system, we will select one participating institution in England who will receive support from experts in collections and engagement. The support scheme aims to identify and, where possible, translate Arabic (or Persian / Urdu) inscriptions on around 50 objects per institution (note that if you do not have 50 objects with inscriptions other associated objects can be included). Further support will be to create a plan and help to deliver engagement around these objects. Outputs will include a collections report, engagement plan and support from an artist specialising in Calligraphy in Arabic, to deliver outreach events in a format that is repeatable and sustainable in the long-term.

Selection for the scheme is based on a written application. If your application is unsuccessful, we invite you to access other support offered by the SSN in the form of our study days and our bursary scheme for museum professionals.


What collections areas are relevant?

The remit of the SSN is defined broadly and currently we incorporate:

  • Historic collections of IAMC from regions where Islam is, or was, the dominant religion (e.g. Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Mughal India)
  • Contemporary art from the Middle East
  • Art and artefacts from other regions inspired by or with an association to the Middle East and dating from the 19th century to the present day

To participate in this scheme you must have relevant objects with inscriptions in Arabic script (in particular those likely to be in languages including Arabic or Persian or Urdu)


Eligibility in 2019/2020

  • Applications this year are open to institutions across England
  • Accredited museums / heritage centres, or those working towards accreditation
  • Applications can be led by collections, curatorial and/or engagement and outreach staff.

We particularly welcome applications that reflect collaborations between staff in these areas reflecting the scheme’s own emphasis on both identifying and understanding objects but also establishing their wider potential for engaging new audiences.

We would encourage all interested parties to apply, including those who have not been successful in previous schemes.


How to apply

  • Applications deadline is 5pm on Friday 20th September 2019


  • Paper versions of these applications are available on request if completing this online form is problematic.
  • We aim to inform applicants of the outcome of their application by late September 2019.
  • Successful applicants must be able to complete their projects by early June 2020.


How will the scheme operate?

The scheme is split into sections that should follow each other:

1) Visits by specialists to your institution for a minimum of one day, or a maximum of five days based on your requirements. We aim to work with you to match the needs of your institution with selected experts. Days could be split between experts in IAMC and/or engagement and outreach, with the individuals involved in this work suggested by and contracted through the SSN. Where necessary, a freelance photographer can be provided to create digital images of up to 30 objects. A report resulting from those visits will be produced by specialists and given to each institution. It is a key requirement that these visits actively involve members of staff, enabling them to become confident stewards of their IAMC collections. We will prioritise applications from institutions who can guarantee that they will be able to accommodate a visit from a collections specialist (on a mutually convenient date) before the end of December 2019.

2) Outputs:

  • Reports from collections and engagement specialists
  • At least 50 objects per institution identified and where possible inscriptions translated. We expect participating institutions to update their object records to SPECTRUM minimum standards for objects examined.
  • A study day on Calligraphy, scheduled for January 2020 will be an opportunity for participants to share their findings and experiences, as well as to discuss and develop their plans for engagement and outreach work.
  • New activities delivered to engage with local audiences in the form of a new display and at least one activity- based event planned (and where possible delivered) with the support of an artist specialising in Calligraphy in Arabic script. These activities will be supported by a budget to cover costs, from design and production of graphics to materials for an outreach event.
  • This second phase must be completed by early June 2020 along with a report on the project and its outputs.

Indicative breakdown of funding available (these are flexible and can be changed in relation to your project). In particular, please do note that if you do not require this level of support then it can be scaled back relative to the size of your collection / project. Please note that where practicable we aim that costs will be paid directly by the SSN through its base at Birmingham Museums Trust.

  • Up to 5 days support from freelancer specialists (curatorial and engagement) @£350 plus travel / subsistence and accommodation expenses = £2325
  • Photography for up to 30 objects and/or conservation support – £875
  • Calligraphy engagement event & purchase of materials – £800
  • Regional sharing event staff travel expenses- £200
  • Physical or on-line display – £800
  • TOTAL – £5,000


Questions? Please contact the SSN through our e-mail account: with ‘Calligraphy Support Scheme’ clearly stated in the subject line.


Through the Specialist Support Scheme, the SSN has previously supported: Berwick-upon-Tweed Museum and Art Gallery, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, Cartwright Hall, Durham Oriental Museum, Emery Walker’s House, Holburne Museum, Hull and East Riding Museum, Museums Sheffield, Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery, Powell Cotton Museum and Wolverhampton Museum.

A case study of the Specialist Support Scheme with the Holburne Museum can be found at:

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