Luton's museums team of Museum Makers set to benefit from nearly £1million funding.

27 June 2017

There’s good news for Luton this week as leading Arts, Museum and Library Trust, Luton Culture attains National Portfolio Organisation status (NPO) for museum related activity which creates even more opportunities for people to participate and engage with culture and local heritage. Almost £1million has been awarded by Arts Council England (ACE), Eastern region which will enable expansion of the culture trust’s innovative volunteer and participation engagement scheme, Museum Makers. The £996,000 funding will be provided over the next four years 2018-2022.

The Museum Makers scheme resulted from the coming together of strategic partners, volunteers, community champions and individuals in 2013, who worked on the transformation of Wardown House, Museum and Gallery to ensure volunteering, community engagement and participation is embedded in the culture of the museum which reopened in April this year after a £3.5m refurbishment. The vision for the redevelopment of the museum was to create a high quality visitor attraction which was a hub of cultural excellence and instil a sense of civic pride.

Museum Maker Bill Bell, a volunteer with Luton Culture for many years said ‘People like myself volunteer because we feel we can make a tangible difference. The Museum Makers scheme means people can volunteer as much time as they want, from an hour here and there, to a day, or longer. I have a great sense of achievement and pride when I know I have been able to get involved and make a positive difference

The way Museum Makers’ model works is to set ‘challenges’ which members of the community sign up for; together they help shape the future direction of the Museum. There are currently over 1200 registered Museum Makers aged from 11 to 91 years old, who, collectively have donated over 4910 hours to projects, campaigns and events, including breaking a Guinness World Record , shaping the redevelopment of the museum from the very beginning, through to final installation of objects and displays, and they continue to be a central role in the museum service offering.

Laura Lewis, Project Co-Ordinator for Museum Makers said ‘Museum Makers is a fantastic scheme created by Luton Culture which other organisations across the country have started to adopt. We have hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life, who have a passion and commitment for preserving Luton’s heritage and want to help maintain a vibrant cultural offering for locals and for visitors to the town.

Karen Perkins, Director of Arts and Museums said ‘This is very exciting news for us; the National Portfolio Organisation status for our museums will allow us to expand and develop this scheme across our other venues, and ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the richness of arts, museums and libraries. It’s great to be at the forefront of an innovative programme, working closely with local people to continue the Museum Makers project, by delivering challenges and targeted projects and opening up deeper, better and richer opportunities for young people and attracting more  diverse volunteers’.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: ‘Wardown House Museum & Gallery has a great track record of engaging Luton’s diverse communities with its collections, particularly initiatives like ‘Museum Makers’. We’re pleased to support this work by welcoming Luton Culture to the 2018-22 National Portfolio for its museum related activity. With our support, Luton Culture will continue to evolve the Museum Makers initiative, whilst also developing its signature hat collection and extending its work with children and young people through its schools programme.’

Marie Kirbyshaw,  Chief Executive for Luton Culture said, ‘This is another great funding success story for the trust, we intend to grow from strength to strength’.

The trust will be investing in digital resources to enable researchers, students, local people, other museums and a broader national and international audience access to important collections; it also has an ambition for its significant Hat and Headwear collection to become the UK’s and the world’s, foremost resource on the Hat Industry and Headwear.

If you would like to find out more about Museum Makers please visit or pop into Wardown House, Museum and Gallery, Old Bedford Road, Luton, LU2 7HA.

Download the full press release