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Designation Scheme

MLA’s 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 138 collections held in museums, libraries and archives.

The Scheme 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.

The Designation Scheme will transfer to Arts Council England in the autumn of 2011. We continue to welcome applications from museums, libraries and archives. Application procedure information and Panel meeting dates can be found at Applying for Designation.

The Designation Scheme has now transferred to Arts Council England. Please visit:

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


Applying for Designation

Applications for Designated status are considered by a Panel composed of senior members of the museum, library and archive

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Designation benefits

The scheme identifies nationally significant cultural assets in museums, libraries and archives and builds a strong...

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Designation Value Statement

The Value Statement sits within the overall MLA approach to sector improvement for museums, libraries and archives and builds on

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Designation Development Fund - museums

The new fund replaces the Designation Challenge Fund, which has used Renaissance funding to improve the management and...

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Designation brand

The MLA's Designation Scheme highlights collections of national importance across England.

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Designation Panel

The Panel's chair is Helen Forde, who is also a member of the MLA's board

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Designation Development Funding for library and archive collections

MLA’s Designation scheme identifies collections of national and international importance held in England’s non national museums,

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Latest News

Responsibilities transfer

From 1st October 2011, this site will not be updated, so please treat it as the static archive it is. This is because <a target="_Blank" href="">Arts Council England</a> has now taken over museums and libraries responsibilities. <a target="_blank" href="">The National Archives</a> has assumed responsibility for strategic leadership of the Archives sector. Arts Council responsibilities will also now include the Renaissance programme, Museum Accreditation, and Library Development, together with cultural property services such as Export Licensing and the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. The National Archives has assumed responsibility for providing strategic leadership to the archives sector and advising government on its development. The MLA is now winding down, with a skeleton staff remaining until May 2012 to complete the management of existing Renaissance contracts, complete outstanding financial and contractual arrangements and prepare for the appointment of a liquidator. This website will remain live until 31st March so that the public still has full access to the material on it – good practice case studies, toolkits, guidance and a range of other publications.  Continue reading

  • External Links

  • Designation pages on Culture24

    For more information about the Designated collections and their holding organisations, please visit the Designated collection pages on Culture 24


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