Museum Freecycle – A Year of Making a Difference

Created in June 2014, the  Museum Freecycle project has gone from strength to strength in its first year, with 400 museums from across the UK now taking part in the scheme. Designed to help museums exchange unwanted items such as display cases, exhibition furniture and office equipment, Museum Freecycle has prevented good quality, reusable museum items from reaching landfill and forged mutually beneficial relationships across the whole museum sector.

The success of the initiative is thanks in part to the determination and vision of its founder – Caroline Keppel-Palmer. Endlessly energetic and one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet, Caroline started Museum Freecycle when she was Managing Director for the architecture and design studio, Urban Salon. The company worked with many museums by designing temporary exhibitions and noticed that much of the display kit from these exhibitions was ending up in the skip, even though most of it was perfectly reusable.

These observations led to the publication of a Design Week article by Alex Mowat from Urban Salon proposing the concept of a Freecycle group aimed at museums. This article caught the attention of Freecycle Founder, Deron Beal and with Deron’s support, Museum Freecycle was born, and the past twelve months have proved hugely successful with new museums signing up to the scheme on an almost daily basis.

The recent addition of a Museum Freecycle twitter account (@Museum Freecycle) has meant that the reduce, reuse, recycle message can now reach even more museums and each week, an assortment of exciting, quirky and useful museum items find new homes across the UK. AIM sat down with Caroline Keppel-Palmer to discover more about the scheme – and her hopes and plans for the next twelve months.


Museum Freecycle founder Caroline Keppel-Palmer

AIM: Hi Caroline – can you explain the benefits of Museum Freecycle for the museums that take part for us please?

CKP: There are three main benefits really for any museum taking part. The first is that Museum Freecycle is an easy way for museums to dispose of unwanted items sustainably. It also provides museums with a source of free exhibition furniture and museum equipment and finally, it’s free to join and free to use.The sector also benefits. By giving items bound for the skip a second lease of life, Museum Freecycle is reducing economic and environmental waste and creating value from those unwanted assets – all for zero cost.

AIM: How easy it is to join Museum Freecycle Caroline?

CKP: Museum Freecycle is super easy and speedy to join. All you need do is sign up to Freecycle as a museum and then apply to join the Museum Freecycle group. There is a handy how to guide with more details here: Freecycle How To Guide

AIM: Huge congratulations on the first year of the scheme – what have the past twelve months been like?

CKP: Museum Freecycle has grown throughout the year. The Horniman Museum has just become our 400th member and we now have members from across the UK stretching from Cornwall to Orkney! Members find it a convenient and useful way to reduce, reuse and recycle. We’ve found new homes for scores of display cases, mannequins, plinths; hundreds of storage boxes and other items. Museums have been able to use ‘new’ equipment from the site to develop their visitor offer for free. Bloxham Village Museum, for example, were able to replace their homemade donations jam jar to a purpose built donation box complete with thank you printed in twenty different languages by using the site.


“Museum Freecycle provides an interesting model for the museum sector linking museums and enabling swaps, gifting and sharing between those museums through a website” says founder, Caroline Keppel-Palmer

AIM: Now that the first year has passed, what are your hopes for Museum Freecycle in the future?

CKP: I am keen to see as many UK museums as possible join and benefit from Museum Freecycle, so we can reduce waste to an absolute minimum and help as many museums as possible get access to ‘new’ free equipment. The more members we have, the better the site will work for everyone. I would love to see other countries follow suit with their own national Museum Freecycle too.

AIM: As well as encouraging reuse, we have noticed that there is a real sense of community and camaraderie between all the museums taking part – would you agree?

CKP: Yes, definitely. Museum Freecycle provides an interesting model for the museum sector linking museums and enabling swaps, gifting and sharing between those museums through a website. I am interested in exploring the potential for extending this ‘sharing economy’ model to other areas within the museum sector to see where else we can create value from underused assets. But I need to focus on my new business start up… so that’s for later!

AIM: You are a busy lady indeed. Thanks so much for your time Caroline – is there anything else that you would like to add?

CKP: Don’t forget that Museum Freecycle is free to join, free to use, helps to boost sustainability and make budgets stretch further. I also want to thank everyone for helping me with the scheme especially AIM, Share Museums East and the Collections Trust.

Museum Freecycle Logo v2


Find out more about Museum Freecycle Museum Freecycle

Follow Museum Freecycle on Twitter @MuseumFreecycle

Collections Trust (CT) Awards 2015: nominations now open

Nominations are now open for the CT Awards 2015, which celebrate excellence in Collections Management. Taking place at the Collections Trust’s Annual Conference, winners will be chosen by leading figures in the sector.

The awards will recognise those who have completed a great project or individuals who have demonstrated exceptional expertise during the past year and represent the pinnacle of recognition for collections professionals.

The four awards open for nominations are Collections Manager of the Year Award, Collections Practice Award, Participatory Practice Award and Collections on a Budget Award

Open Culture 14 Day One - Greg Sigston-112

Open Culture 2014 (Photo credit: Greg Sigston)

Full details of the awards and how to submit an entry are available on the Collections Trust website at:

Among those judging this year’s entries are: Nick Merriman, Director, Manchester Museum, and Chair, Collections Trust; Heather Caven, Head of Collection Services, National Museums Scotland and Hadrian Ellory van Dekker, Head of Collections, Science Museum.

Read more about the panel.

Nominations and self-nominations are welcome from arts and cultural organisations in the UK, and the judges will assess them on the basis of eligibility, excellence, and innovation. All submissions, discussions and comments will be made online.

The closing date for nominations is Friday 14 August 2015

Collections Trust Membership Survey

The Collections Trust is the professional association for people working in Collections Management. Since 2012, our network has grown significantly, and we have now reached the point whereby we need to look at new ways to ensure that we can continue to serve the interests of the Collections Management community.

We are carrying out this survey to inform a Feasibility Study for a new Collections Trust Membership Scheme, which will help support our work now and for the future. Collections Trust  is currently consulting on the re-introduction of our paid membership scheme and to ask whether you might be able to take a moment to let us have your comments and ideas.

As the professional association for people working in collections management in the UK and internationally, the Collections Trust has an active programme which encompasses workforce development, standards and advocacy for the value and impact of collections and collecting.

Our work is supported in England by the Arts Council England, and please be assured that none of the free resources and services that ACE has funded will be withdrawn or placed behind a paywall. The aims in considering the re-introduction of a membership scheme are to support the ongoing expansion of our work, to support delivery in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and to give us a closer connection to and relationship with the professional community we serve as a Charity.

The short survey questionnaire is now live at


*This post has been created using information from Collections Trust

Museum Freecycle is going from strength to strength

The Museum Freecycle UK portal is proving a big success with 170 members signed up in its first few months of operation. We covered its launch in June here. Now we’re pleased to share this update from its organisers.

The Museum Freecycle site offers museums an online tool, which enables them to recycle their showcases and other exhibition build items for free. The network connects museums that are discarding setworks from temporary exhibitions and those looking for new elements helping to boost sustainability and reduce costs within the sectors. It is being run by exhibition designers and architects Urban Salon with the support of SHARE Museums East and The Collections Trust.

There are now 170 members across the UK including the National Portrait Gallery, the Design Museum, the Imperial War Museum as well as smaller museums such as the Bagpipe Museum and Bloxham Village Museum. Membership is open to all UK museums.

Urban Salon managing director Caroline Keppel-Palmer says: ‘Members have been using the site actively and we have seen museums posting items including mannequins, display cases, plinths and donation boxes.’

Dulwich Picture Gallery is one of the institutions that has used the portal. Exhibitions officer Nadine Loach says: “I have found Museum Freecycle to be really useful and thoroughly recommend it to everyone I meet with at other institutions. We had a great response to our request for showcases and were very impressed with the offers. Our offer of four display cases was picked up very quickly by several museums in London who emailed within days. The first response was from a National Trust property who sent someone to visit to see the showcases and then later arranged to collect them all.’

Caroline Keppel-Palmer is keen for the project to gain momentum and build membership: ‘The more members that join, the more effective the network will be for the sector. Museum Freecycle is open to all UK museums and membership is free.’

Free seminars from Collections Trust around England

The Collections Trust Seminars

skills logo bigLondon | Manchester | Brighton | York | Exeter | Colchester


The Collections Trust, with funding and support from Arts Council England, has developed a series of free seminars that will provide you with the know-how to improve the use of technology in your museum and assist you with your collections development strategy.

The first seminar will take place in London on 6 October 2014. Book your free place now!

Who should attend

The seminars are aimed at Collections Management professionals and volunteers who work in small and medium-sized UK museums that are Accredited or that are working towards Accreditation.

Benefits of attending

  • Receive practical advice and support
  • Benefit from the experience of others
  • Gain insights that will help with Accreditation
  • Discover a range of useful resources
  • Add to your CPD
  • Network with colleagues

Dates and venues

6 October 2014 Science Museum, London Book now
6 November 2014 Manchester Meeting Place, Manchester Book now
1 December 2014 Brighton Done, Brighton Book now
13 January 2015 The Hospitium, York Book now
25 February 2015 RAMM, Exeter Book now
18 March 2015 Colchester Castle, Colchester Book now

For information about the programme see

Don’t forget the Going Digital Conference on 17th November!

Collections Trust holding “Going Digital” Conference on 17 November

Going Digital Conference

[Update:  Delegate booking and sponsorship sales open for the Collections Trust’s Going Digital Conference. More info here and for tickets going-digital-conference/delegate-booking )


OpenCulture photo

Part of the Collections Trust’s Going Digital Programme, this major one-day conference is specifically designed for those responsible for developing, managing and sharing museum collections with the public. It will help you build organisational resilience in your museums by improving the basic use of computers and the Internet.

The Going Digital Conference will be presented in partnership with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums at The Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne on Monday 17 November 2014. The event is supported by Arts Council England.

The conference programme is currently under development, and it will clearly identify the practical skills needed to “go digital”. Case Studies will show just how much can be achieved on a limited budget!


Register your interest as a delegate right now. Full details of the programme, speakers, and online booking arrangements will be sent you as they become available.

Programme themes

  • How to undertake a basic IT Audit
  • Understanding basic digitisation and copyright issues
  • Getting your collections online
  • Using Social Media effectively
  • Making the most of databases
  • Developing an IT culture in your museum
  • How to approach managing digital assets
  • Identifying potential funders for your digital projects

Key benefits of attending

  • Practical advice and support to help you go digital
  • Significant CPD benefits
  • Opportunities to ask questions and join in the discussion
  • Meet leading software providers for hands-on demonstrations
  • Network with colleagues and speakers
  • …plus you’ll receive a personal copy of the How-to guide “Auditing IT in your Museum”
 In partnership with    In association with
image: TWAM logo   image: Arts Council England logo

The Collections Trust are looking for Creative Employment partners

Creative & Cultural Skills recently published a blog by Nick Poole, CEO of the Collections Trust, explaining why they are seeking partners to join their consortium application to the Creative Employment Programme.

In an increasingly competitive economy, all creative industries need to stay relevant to survive. For museums, refreshing and innovating our public offer depends on developing a thriving, diverse workforce – enabling people from all walks of life to build a career in our great cultural institutions. When many people think of a career in museums, they can be put off by the idea that they will need post-graduate degrees in history and fine art just to get their foot in the door. In reality, the modern museum sector demands a rich mix of creative, cultural and entrepreneurial skills. We need people who can inspire classrooms full of schoolchildren, deliver innovative programmes or build award-winning apps to help in the mission to engage as many people as possible in their cultural heritage.Read more of the blog here: The Collections Trust are looking for Creative Employment partners.

The blog goes on to explain that Collections Trust is looking for museum or cultural heritage institutions considering creating an apprenticeship in a collections-based role to join them in a consortium bid. Creative & Cultural Skills can provide financial support up to £1,500 or £2,000 per year (depending on the salary basis of the apprenticeship) and the Collections Trust is keen to add value to this by networking culture-sector employers and supporting the sharing of insights and experiences.

The deadline for expressions of interest in joining the Collections Trust’s consortium is Friday 29th August and CT encourage interested parties to make contact with them before then to discuss ideas and interest.

Find out more about the Collections Trust’s call for partners.


Applications open for Collections Management Traineeships @CollectionTrust

The Collections Trust and Arts Council England are delighted to launch a joint initiative to pilot a Collections Management Traineeships programme for the museum and heritage sector.

A video introducing the programme is available on the Collections Trust website.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for entry to the Collections Management Traineeship Programme, candidates must:

  • Be legally entitled to work or volunteer in the UK
  • Be working or volunteering in the UK museum and heritage community
  • Have worked or volunteered in this capacity for no more than 5 years
  • Have secured the support of their current host or employer for their participation
  • Be positive, enthusiastic and open in their approach
  • Be willing to commit to participating actively in the programme

How to apply

Candidates should download the Application Form, complete and return it no later than 17.00 on Friday, 21st August 2014

Further information and resources

To help decide whether the Collections Management Traineeship Programme is right for you, they have developed the following additional guidance and resources:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Timeline for the Traineeship Programme
  • Information for Employers

via Collections Management Traineeships – Collections Trust.

A Distributed National Collection for England?

Nick Poole, CEO of Collections Trust, has posted some thoughtful and thought-provoking blogs in the past few months. Here we round up three that we liked best.

Most recently he has suggested that the time may have come to consider a Distributed National Collection for England in a blog, One Collection to Unite Them All. The Welsh Distributed National Collection is already a centre piece of the National Museum Strategy for Wales. Being able to hold a part of a distributed national collection could help AIM members all over the country be better recognised (especially by those outside the museums sector) for their role in both preserving our heritage in all its richness and diversity and in ensuring that where ever you live, you are within reach of and can access that heritage for learning and enjoyment.

If you like that, you may also find Nick’s Poole’s blog about 10 Lessons for Museums from HS2 is thought provoking, as is his blog from last year about why We Don’t Need a Debate, We Need a Plan.

You can find all the Collections Trust blogs here: 

New Collections Trust blogs on ‘Going Digital’

Collections Trust has just published the first in a new series of blog posts about ‘Going Digital’ – the Collections Trust’s programme to support museums in making the most of technology. In this first post they look at the question, ‘Who does ‘digital’ in a museum?’.

At the heart of every organisation is its people. People bring skills, attitudes, knowledge and enthusiasm to their work, without which museums couldn’t achieve any of the things they do. So it seems right to begin our exploration of ‘Going Digital’ in museums by thinking about the people involved – who, exactly, does ‘digital’ in a museum? What skills does the museum need to have access to in order to make the most of the opportunities of technology, while avoiding the risks?

At the Collections Trust, we think very hard about the people we’re aiming to serve. As part of the planning of the ‘Going Digital’ programme, we’ve been thinking about the different roles within the museum and how they can help or hinder the adoption of new ideas and new technologies.

They go on to talk about the many different ways in which digital comes into a museums activity and the different roles involved – leaders, innovators digitally engaged practitioners, non-digital practitioners, commissioners and providers.

Read more here: Going Digital Part 1: Digital People.