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The Recognition Scheme Explained

The Recognition Scheme Explained

Jacob O’Sullivan, Collections and Interpretation Manager at MGS talks about MGS’s involvement with the Recognition Scheme.

There are currently 49 collections recognised by the Scottish Government as being Nationally Significant to Scotland. Cared for by museums and galleries across the country. We’ll soon be announcing the 50th Recognised Collection, which is an incredible reflection on the important collections in Scotland’s museums and galleries.

MGS manages and administrates the Recognition Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Government. Museums going through the recognition application process are supported by MGS, but decisions affecting recognition are made by an independent Recognition Committee. The closest sustained point of contact between the MGS team and museums going through the recognition process comes at the very beginning, as the museums begin gathering the evidence and writing the applications for the collections they care for.

For those of you not familiar with the application process, it begins when a museum submits a note of interest, which MGS assess to see if they are eligible. We hold an introductory workshop for new applicants where the full application process is explained. Following that, if they decide to continue with the application, I (Jacob) will be a regular point of contact for them throughout the process. The recognition application is a landmark piece of work that the museums will undertake.

Curator handling object

Rachel Chisholm, Curator of Collections from the Highland Folk Museum pictured with a Muckle wheel forerunner of the spinning wheel. Their collection was awarded Recognised Collections of National Significance status by Museum Galleries Scotland in December 2015.


The Recognition Committee is made up of sector experts from across Scotland, representing varied subject areas. They decide the outcome of applications to the scheme and therefore which collections should be recognised as nationally significant. The Recognition Committee also decide the outcome of the Recognised Collection’s five yearly Status Review, and comment on the strategic direction of the scheme as evidenced through the information MGS gathers from Annual Returns. There are two committee meetings per year, at which these decisions are made.

Museums which care for Recognised Collections are obliged to keep us informed of how the collections are cared for and managed, these are evidenced in reports and reviews for Annual Returns.

Twice a year museums with Recognised Collections come together at Recognised Collection Holders’ meetings to share information and knowledge about the innovative work they’ve been doing with their collections. They may be asked to speak at a meeting to share their collection expertise. The meetings are always held at one of the fantastic museums with a Recognised Collection, so everyone gets a chance to see some of these nationally significant collections in person. One of the nicer challenges we face administering the scheme is finding a suitable museum for all collection holders to attend! Recognised Collections are as far apart as the Archaeology and Textile Collections of Shetland Amenity Trust, and the Kirkcudbright Artists’ Collections of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Each year MGS’s involvement with the Recognition Scheme includes:

  • Making recommendations on new applications to the scheme.
  • Contacting expert advisors.
  • Providing advice.
  • Hosting workshops.
  • Advocacy on behalf of the collections in the scheme.
  • Help recruiting for and communicating with the Recognition committee.
  • Organising and hosting two Recognised Collection Holders’ meetings.
  • Processing Status Reviews and Annual Returns.

As well as administering the Recognition Scheme MGS is also delighted to be able to fund some of the innovative projects concerning Recognised Collections. This funding is ring-fenced for Recognised Collections and comes through MGS’s Museum Development Fund.

We are really pleased to be able to draw on the vast expertise and experience of Recognised Collections Holders, who have been invaluable in providing further support throughout the sector by presenting at Collections Workshops, and through other means.

Published 13 November 2019