Cambridge’s reputation as a centre of excellence for museums and culture in the UK received a vital boost today when Arts Council England (ACE) awarded University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) more than £4.8m and National Portfolio Organisation status from 2018-2022.

Kettle’s Yard, who work in partnership with UCM, has also been awarded £1,163,028 as part of ACE’s National Portfolio, further enhancing the role of the University’s Museums and Botanic Garden as the largest cultural provider in the region.

Today’s announcement will enable the University museums and collections to continue their mission to connect more people with world-class collections of more than eight million objects, to reach new audiences who may face barriers to enjoying and participating in the museums, as well as facilitating and sharing exceptional international research for both Cambridge academics and a global community of researchers and scholars.

The total economic impact of Cambridge University’s Museums and Botanic Garden was estimated to be at least £16m in 2015-16. The collections contribute to major academic studies at home and abroad, and last year the museums and Botanic Garden welcomed nearly one million visitors through their doors.

Professor Eilis Ferran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations at Cambridge, said: “This significant announcement from Arts Council England recognises the important role that the University’s Museums and Botanic Garden play in research, learning, understanding and enjoyment. The University of Cambridge Museums exist for all of us, and are open free to the public, and this funding will enable them to continue to share this resource for the future.

“Audience-focused programmes like India Unboxed are a perfect example of our museums’ engagement with communities not just at home, but many thousands of miles away, too. We are working with Indian designers and artists to enable more people to experience our outstanding collections from India, marking the UK-India Year of Culture 2017

Fitzwilliam Museum Director and Chair of the University of Cambridge Museums Steering Group, Tim Knox said: “National Portfolio status for both the UCM and Kettle’s Yard is a huge privilege and one we take very seriously. Arts Council England has fully supported the huge changes and development we have made in bringing the work of the museums and the Botanic Garden together, and with their continued support there is plenty of exciting work yet to be done.”

UCM Museums Officer Liz Hide said: “The eight University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden represent the country’s highest concentration of internationally important collections outside London. Since 2012, Arts Council funding has transformed the way the museums can work together to open up their collections for everyone. We are delighted that Arts Council England recognises the positive impacts through their continuing support.”

Arts Council funding will enable the UCM to continue its work reaching out to public audiences and bringing the University’s exceptional collections and research to many more people, through popular programmes such as Summer at the Museums and a huge range of partnership work with schools, charities, community groups and other cultural organisations across Cambridgeshire and the wider region.

Through temporary and permanent exhibitions, visitors can explore paintings by Titian, Monet and Picasso, biological and geological specimens collected by Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton’s notebooks, Captain Scott’s last letters, early hominid tools discovered in East Africa by Louis Leakey, rare material from now-extinct Dodo, local archaeological and natural history collections, one of the world’s finest collections of casts of Greek and Roman sculpture, and meteorites and moon rock from beyond our planet.

Both Kettle’s Yard and the Museum of Zoology are currently undergoing major redevelopments and will reopen in the coming year with substantially improved exhibitions, visitor facilities and resources, demonstrating the University’s ongoing commitment to improve and increase access to its collections.

Recent innovations and successes for UCM have included Cam Lates – alternative, after-hours events at the museums featuring improv comedy, music and film screenings , Twilight at the Museums, where families explore the museums by torchlight after hours– and the launch of India Unboxed, a wide-ranging programme of exhibitions, events and a film series.