About the scheme

Please note that the Designation Scheme is currently undergoing a review and during this period is closed to new applications. Please see the ‘Applying for Designation’ webpage for information about the reopening of the Scheme.

The review of Designation considered the purpose and principles of the scheme to establish its effectiveness as a means of identifying vitally important cultural collections.

Our clear vision of the power of Designation and our plans for the future of the scheme have been laid out in the publication ‘Pearls and Wisdom’. These plans will enable the scheme to thrive and will focus attention on these exceptional and outstanding collections.

The publication is based on recommendations from an extensive consultation. This consultation showed that Designation continues to be greatly valued, and that the founding principles of identifying and celebrating the best collections should be repositioned as the foundation for future awards. 

Read the full report here

If you prefer, you can download Pearls and wisdom as a PDF 

Prior to the creation of the publication, the Arts Council commissioned an independent survey to gather opinions about the purposes, principles and future of the Designation Scheme.

Designation Review - Results from a Survey of Stakeholders

Using the findings of the survey as well as points raised during key stakeholder conversations and discussions within the Arts Council, we have developed a proposal on the future of the scheme. 

Designation Scheme - a proposal for its future

This proposal informed the development of a new application process for the Scheme, which is currently being tested by pilot applicants. We will be accepting applications to the revised Designation Scheme in spring 2015. Please check back for updates.

About the scheme

The Designation Scheme identifies the pre-eminent collections of national and international importance held in England's non-national museums, libraries and archives, based on their quality and significance. These inspiring collections represent a vital part of our national cultural and artistic heritage.

The scheme was launched in 1997 and now recognises 140 collections held in museums, libraries and archives, it recognises that organisations with Designated collections care for a significant part of England’s cultural heritage and sets out to raise standards across the sector.

Organisations holding Designated collections are expected to work towards the provision of high-quality services which deliver the fullest possible access to those collections and to take a leadership role in the sector by helping other institutions in such ways as sharing expertise, offering advice and lending objects or materials.

For further information please contact Paula Brikci (Manager, Designation and PRISM Fund) or Sarah Waldron (Assistant, Designation and PRISM Fund):


Enquiries tel: 0845 300 6200

Promoting Designated collections

We have created a toolkit to help you promote your Designated collections. It can supplement resources provided by communications colleagues, and provides easy-to-follow tips and templates.

Download Promoting Designated collections

Designation development fund

Designation development funding supports projects that improve museum collections for the benefit of audiences, developing greater public understanding and engagement, while at the same time increasing sustainability. It also supports museums to share best practice with other organisations across the sector.

The current 2014-16 round of Designation development funding is now closed. For more information about the Fund and the successful applications, visit the Designation development funding webpage.