The Object in Focus project was set up taking inspiration from the work that the Museums Association was doing with regard to its Effective Collections programme, specifically Smarter Loans. We were looking for ways to help re-invigorate our collections using simple and cost-effective methods and it was decided in 2011 to pilot the Object in Focus loans project.
In 2011, funded by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council, the Horniman toured the merman to six small museums. The remit of the project was to reach new audiences, improve access to objects, develop partnerships, and share skills and knowledge.
From April 2012 to March 2023 the project was funded by Arts Council England and although the initial remit of the project remained mostly unchanged, the reach and engagement of the project grew each year. Each loan was bespoke to the borrower so there were a large variety of different types of loans over the years. Partners could borrow objects from the Horniman free of charge, meeting the same documentation, conservation and exhibition standards as our regular loans, but with support provided by us throughout.
We pioneered a proactive and accessible way of offering loans, providing enhanced support to develop the project to the needs of our partners. Over the 12 years, we loaned Object in Focus displays to 92 venues including small museums, public and by appointment libraries, universities and community partner venues.
As well as borrowing the object in a showcase, we also provided publicity (like bookmarks, postcards and posters), curator talks, arts and crafts sessions (for adults and children), digital advice, collections management training, schools sessions and conservation advice.
Through the Object in Focus project, objects that would otherwise have been in storage have been seen by upwards of 1.1 million people.
Thank you to all of our Object in Focus partners over the years.