Towards a National Collection (TaNC): Opening UK Heritage to the World

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The TORCH Heritage Partnerships Team is pleased to circulate the following call from the Oxford University Research Services that will run an internal coordinated process to identify the strongest Oxford lead outlines, in line with the aims of the TaNC call. 

The AHRC have opened their long-awaited Towards a National Collection (TaNC) call. Their deadline for outline applications is 17th November 2020, with outcomes announced by the end of January 2021.

This call aims to fund up to five projects over a maximum of 36 months within the total funding envelope of £15, with an indicative limit for each project of £3m (representing 80% of the fEC). A single IRO or HEI can lead a maximum of three outline proposals. There is no limit to the number of proposals an institution can be involved in as co-investigator/project partner.

The AHRC intend to hold at least four open webinars for applicants to find out further information, ask questions, and begin to discuss initial ideas. The dates of the webinars are as follows: Wednesday 27 May 2020; Monday 1 June 2020; Tuesday 2 June 2020; Wednesday 3 June 2020. To attend the AHRC webinars, please complete the SmartSurvey by 18th May.


The Oxford University Research Services will run a coordinated process to identify the three most compelling, coherent, and deliverable Oxford lead outlines, in line with the aims of the call. Research Services will also be delivering an e-discussion in mid-June, following on from the initial session facilitated by Hattie Warburton in April, and including further information regarding the call following the AHRC webinar series in early June. More details on how to attend will be shared nearer the time.


The call will fund strong inter-disciplinary and multi-institutional research partnerships that address the technological and organisational obstacles which currently divide the UK's collections, harnessing digital technology, and beginning to establish common standards and tools, for both research and public access. The UK's museums, archives, galleries, and heritage organisations include not just the great national collections but also a host of smaller regional and local institutions. AHRC take a broad view of cultural heritage - incorporating the tangible, intangible, digital, intellectual, artistic, and the connections between them. Even though the aim of the call is not to fund extensive digitisation or cataloguing, a small proportion of the budget may be allocated to this, where it is critical for achieving the aims of the project.


Discovery projects should deliver impact in all three of the following areas:

  1. Enabling digital search by dissolving barriers between collections, addressing technological, organisational and other issues preventing an integrated virtual 'national collection'.
  2. Enhancing research capability to address questions that draw on a range of sources.
  3. Enhancing public engagement facilitating wider, better-informed and more inclusive public-access, whether virtual or in-person.


Each Discovery Project will be required to include collaboration between one or more IROs and one or more HEIs. Further collaboration with local, regional, or national collection organisations, third sector organisations and/or stakeholders is strongly encouraged.

Project Partners make a significant and specific contribution to the project (in cash or in kind), e.g. expertise, staff time, use of facilities, access to archives, etc. Only minor DI costs can be charged by Project Partners (such as travel to meetings where they cannot cover that cost as part of their contribution).

Collaborating Organisations can charge the project for the costs of their involvement. Collaborating Organisations could be smaller, local/regional museums, collections, libraries, archives, galleries, and heritage organisations.


Oxford's internal coordinated bids process has been designed purely for those Discovery Projects being led by Oxford.

Please provide a 2 page CV of the PI, plus an outline case for support (4 pages max):

  • Clearly outline how the project will deliver in each of the three areas of impact (defined above)
  • Briefly describe/list the topic, areas, questions, challenges to be addressed by the project
  • Outline/list partnerships and collaborations (or pathways to develop these) indicating where a relationship/collaboration already exists.
  • State the context for the project, why is it important that this is explored?
  • Describe the overall project design and/or approaches the team will be using to address the questions, aims and objectives


The outline case for support and CV should be emailed to Emma Nagel-Smith in Research Services by 4 pm on Monday 17th August to be considered by the internal panel.

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