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Recognition Scheme application process


The Recognition Scheme celebrates, promotes and invests in Nationally Significant Collections held outside nationally run institutions.

Read all about the Recognition Scheme.

Find out more about the Recognised Collections.


If you care for a Recognised Collection, you are eligible to apply to the Recognition Fund for up to £60,000 to support projects that will further the objectives of the scheme. For example, you might need help to increase access to your collections or to improve how you care for them.

Recognised Collection holders as part of a network of nationally significant collections with the option to join other Recognised Collection Holders at meetings to share knowledge and learning.

Recognised Collection Holders have also identified the benefits of Recognition as:

  • increased pride from workforce
  • external validation supporting their position within a bigger organisation (eg University or Local Authority)
  • ability to leverage in additional funding
  • helped safeguard staffing levels

Learn more about the Recognition Fund.


Any Accredited, non-national museum can apply to the Recognition Scheme for recognition of a collection. You must be able to provide evidence to show that the collection you care for is nationally significant.

It is the collection as a whole that will be assessed for its importance, rather than individual objects. The building in which your collection is housed may be significant in its own right, but our focus is very much on the collection itself.

You must maintain your Accreditation status throughout the application process and, if successful, on an ongoing basis.

National vs non-national museums

Scotland’s national museums and galleries are those:

  • established by national legislation
  • significantly funded directly by the Scottish Government

Find out more about national collections in Scotland on the Scottish Government website.

All of Scotland’s other museums are non-national museums, including ‘nationally styled’ museums. Such museums are non-national but take a name that suggests national status, e.g. a title that includes the term ‘National’, ‘Scottish’ or ‘Scotland’.


Your application must show clearly why your collection is nationally significant.

To do so, you will need to include:

  • descriptions of the collection and its contents
  • citations of publications that mention the collection
  • copy of the current approved Collections Development Policy
  • research and engagement use of the collection
  • loan requests

As part of your application you must provide letters of support (addressed to you) from academics, researchers, staff of other museums and other users of your collection. Your supporter should clearly state that the collection is nationally important and describe why.

The application form provides more detail on what’s needed, plus space to include supporting information in the appendices.

Find out more about how to apply.

Partnership applications

You may wish to apply for recognition of a collection you hold as part of a partnership.

We define a partnership as: an agreed relationship between two or more organisations with a shared vision who gain mutual benefit from working together to achieve common goals.

When making a partnership application, you must also provide evidence that all partners and key stakeholders:

  • see the collection as a coherent whole rather than as unrelated parts – e.g. a single art collection on display across several galleries
  • manage the collection together in a coordinated way – e.g. by making collective decisions about loans and acquisitions
  • discuss the collection as a single entity spread across more than one venue in relevant policy documents – e.g. conservation plans

Time commitment

Allow plenty of time for planning and to gather and present the evidence to support your application. You’ll have six months to complete your application, but even so you may struggle to collate all of the details within this time if they aren’t already to hand.

Previous applicants tell us that the task involves significant effort, but also that pulling together the information can be a valuable exercise for other reasons. Evidence may also be useful for planning and to support funding applications.

You shouldn’t apply until you’re sure you have the evidence you need to make your case for Recognition. For example, if no recent assessment of the collection’s significance is available, you can commission one externally or undertake a methodical internal assessment. But you should do this well before you even submit a note of interest.

Our application process and guidance doesn’t change significantly from year to year. So you can start planning and talking to us about the process long before the next round of applications opens before Christmas.


If you feel you have a suitable collection to put forward, applying to the Recognition Scheme is broadly a three-step process.

  1. Write and submit a note of interest.
  2. Attend an optional one-day workshop on the application process.
  3. Submit paper and digital versions of your application by the deadline. (Up to four months from the workshop date).

You must read the detailed guidance and the instructions on the application form to ensure that you provide everything that’s needed. We are also happy to talk you through the steps involved and give you advice on applying.

To discuss the Recognition Scheme, get in touch now.

Find out about the time commitment involved in applying.

When to apply

Please note, the 2020 round of applications has now closed. Due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19, the 2020 application round will take place in 2021.  

There is one round of applications per year. Important dates for the 2020 (15th) round are as follows:

Notes of interest due 3 February 2020
Workshop date

 17 February 2020

Refresher workshops now open to those who submitted in 2020 (please email Jacob O'Sullivan)

Applications due TBC - July 2021
Decisions made Autumn 2021
Announcement event Winter 2021


What happens next

We will confirm receipt of your application and check it within two weeks of the application deadline for any gaps in information or issues that might prevent us reaching a decision. Our Quality Assurance Manager will contact you if necessary.

You will also be told the date that the Recognition Committee will consider your application.

Expert advisers are appointed to review and assess each of the applications. Their report is used in the deliberations of the Recognition Committee to help inform their decision.

The Recognition Committee meets in the autumn to discuss all applications. Each application will be considered in terms of whether the evidence provided is sufficient for a collection to be deemed of national significance.

You will be told informally of the outcome of your application the day after the meeting. A formal decision letter from the chair of the Recognition Committee will follow within two weeks. Recommendations may be included with this.

You shouldn’t publicly announce the Recognition Committee’s decision. This will instead be done at a celebratory event for all new Recognised Collections, to which the media will be invited. This will be held in November or December.

Find out about our current Recognition Committee members

Application Form 2020 (DOCX, 172KB) Note of Interest 2020 (PDF, 105KB) Guidance for adding new partner (PDF, 404KB)


Notification of decision

We’ll let you know the Recognition Committee’s decision within two weeks of its meeting to discuss your application. You will be told when this is to take place soon after we’ve received your application.

Successful collections:

  • receive a specially designed plaque and certificate to display
  • can apply to the Recognition Fund for up to £60,000
  • will be named at our next annual announcement event
  • are required to use the Recognised Collections branding
  • are required to submit a status review report when requested
  • are required to complete annual returns
  • should be open to collaborative work

Find out more about the Recognition Fund.

Download the Recognised Collections brand guidelines.

Annual returns

Every year each of the organisations that care for Recognised Collections will be asked to complete an Annual Return.

The Annual Return is a set of questions that cover a 12-month period. The information we gather will give MGS a comprehensive picture of the work of the Collections with accurate, up to date information in relation to the Recognition Scheme objectives. The responses provide examples of developing practice to inspire future plans and encourage collaborative working, and are used to strengthen our advocacy work for the Recognised Collections, and the Scheme and Fund in general.

MGS email the Recognition contacts to ask for the return and provide the link to the questions, giving at least a months’ notice of the deadline which is at the end of May.

We realise that each organisation has their own planning calendars but in order to be able to have responses that are consistent across organisations to allow MGS to analyse the returns, the information requested relates to the previous financial year April – March.

After the information has been received by MGS, we analyse the data and produce a report of our findings.

Following the returns for April 2014 – March 2015, April 2015 – March 2016, and April 2016 - March 2017, we found:

  • Museums dealt with over 15,000 research requests for access to Recognised Collections from 2014-2017
  • The average proportion of Recognised Collections digitally accessible to the public is 25%
  • Recognised Collection Holders had an overall total of 1,793 items loaned to other organisations in 2016-17
  • Museums displayed and interpreted Recognised Collections in 547 exhibitions from 2014-2017
  • Since the first annual return survey, museums displaying Recognised Collections have received 22,902,938 visits

View the Recognised Collections Annual Returns

Recognition Annual Return 2014_2015 Report (PDF, 1MB) Recognition Annual Returns 2015_16 (PDF, 5MB) Annual Returns report 2016_17 (PDF, 4MB) Annual Returns report 2018_2019 (PDF, 2MB)


Annual Returns from previous years are available on request. 

Status review

 The Recognition Committee will review the status of each Recognised Collection once every five years. Significant disposals from, or a disaster involving, a Recognised Collection will trigger an immediate review.

A status review process was envisaged right from the start, when the Recognition Scheme was set up in 2006. Now in place, this process aims to ensure that the Recognition Scheme remains credible and robust, by having up-to-date evidence to support the status of this elite group of collections.

The first round of status reviews was carried out in autumn 2015.

How to prepare for a status review

Before your status review, you will be asked to submit a concise report outlining why the status of your Recognised Collection should be maintained. This is not a reapplication process.

Your report should cover:

  • whether the Collection is still eligible
  • whether there have been any major additions and/or disposals since Recognition status was awarded and how have these affected the importance and/or quality of the Recognised Collection
  • a description/outline of the curatorial provision for the collection and whether this has changed since Recognition status was awarded
  • how collections knowledge has been improved since award of Recognition status (e.g. what research, exhibitions, publications, collaborations, etc. have been undertaken)
  • what impact Recognition status has had on the reputation of the Collection and organisation
  • how the Recognition logo is being made use of in the museum and on promotional material such as website and leaflets
  • a discussion of the demand for loans from the Collection, and whether this changed since Recognition status was awarded
  • how engagement with the Collection has changed since Recognition status was awarded
  • the benefits Recognised status has brought for the Collection and/or the organisation
  • any relevant information regarding the organisations efforts to achieve the Recognition Scheme objectives

Your report will be presented to the Recognition Committee, which will decide whether your Recognised Collection still meets the criteria of quality and national importance. Even if it remains worthy of its status, you may be given recommendations for areas of improvement.


Timetable for Reviews Nov 2018 (PDF, 331KB) Guidance for Status Review reports (PDF, 463KB)




Feel free to contact our Quality Assurance Manager for any information or advice about the Recognition Scheme:

Jacob O’Sullivan
Collections and Interpretation Manager
Telephone: 0131 550 4141


For any questions regarding branding, holders of Recognition Collections may contact:

Eithne Ní Chonghaile
Senior Communications Manager
Telephone: 0131 550 4140

Related guide

Recognition Committee Members

Our Recognition Committee meet twice a year to manage the scheme and evaluate new applications

Find out more