British Museum receives its largest single grant in a decade from Arcadia

British Museum receives its largest single grant in a decade from Arcadia


The EMKP is a ground-breaking initiative that awards grants across the globe to preserve knowledge of the material world. Working at all scales from the small, domestic world of daily cooking and eating cultures, to the special and extraordinary worlds of ritual events, this programme collects knowledge of how individuals and communities uniquely make and shape their worlds. In a rapidly changing global environment, this material knowledge – be it social, economic, symbolic or ecological – is the key to sustaining communities and preserving the rich diversity of global culture into the future, and to prevent them being lost forever.

As part of the grant British Museum experts offer specialist training to grantees in a wide variety of tools and methods that can be used during the documentation process, including different media such as films, photographs, interviews, drawings, maps and 3D reconstruction. Once this material has been collated, it is uploaded onto an open access digital database hosted by the British Museum, and a digital copy is also shared with a partner in the country of work so that it remains close to the community whose cultural heritage it represents. By working together with experts and communities across the world, the approach of the EMKP continues the British Museum’s work to share and preserve knowledge of human history, with global collaboration remaining at the heart of all future partnerships.

The EMKP began awarding grants in 2018, and since then projects in 24 countries[1] have been supported. Recently concluded projects include work on beekeeping in Kenya, paper clothes making in Japan and the traditions of mouth harp making and playing in Cambodia. As well as increasing the number of projects to be supported, the landmark grant from Arcadia will allow the British Museum to support larger projects and to preserve additional critically endangered heritage in greater detail.

The grant will also increase the in-house EMKP team at the British Museum with two new members of staff, who will focus on curating the digital records for the repository. This enhancement of the programme follows a growth in demand for the second round of grants in 2020 which saw an increase of over 20% of applications from the first round, demonstrating the desire and urgent need for funding to protect at-risk cultural heritage. Critically, nearly 60% of all applications have come from researchers based in, or from, the country of work, ensuring a truly global approach and outlook. This will ensure that in these ever-uncertain times, that the work of the EMKP and the grants available can reach as many communities and academic research facilities as possible.

The third round of applications for EMKP grants is now open. Following on from the success of grants awarded in 2019 and 2020, this funding is available to anybody to carry out documentation work on active material practices and knowledge systems. Applications are particularly encouraged for projects that will carry out work in areas and countries with limited local funding infrastructure, where this EMKP funding can make the most difference and save living heritage that may otherwise disappear. There is no restriction on the nationality of the applicants, nor on the regional coverage of the work being proposed, making the EMKP a truly global initiative. The deadline for applications for the new grant round is 31 January 2021.

Image: Mashiko Endō showing aJapanese paper vest she constructed(Photo: DaphneMohajer va Pesaran)

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