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Annual report 2019-20

Culture and community

Illustration of a picture frame with a puzzle piece in one corner.

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Wellcome award for WAFE archive

In May 2020, we were awarded £205,000 from the Wellcome Trust for a 30-month project to transform the raw material of the Women’s Aid Federation England (WAFE) archive into a comprehensive research resource.

Women’s Aid Federation England (WAFE) is the national coordinating body for all local and domestic violence services, including refuges in England. It lobbies, advocates and campaigns throughout England. The archive encapsulates the broad spectrum of its work from 1970s to the present day.

The collection is a significant interdisciplinary research resource and is intended to be the basis of many new research collaborations across the University, along with external academics and community partners. It is a major resource for WAFE’s own understanding of its contribution to health and society.

Special Collections is working in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Feminist Archive North so that the archive is secure, preserved and made accessible for research and engagement.

The project is supported by the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies.

VisitEngland rates our Galleries highly

The Galleries received an excellent overall mark of 81% following a visit and assessment by the VisitEngland Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VASQAS) in February 2020.

VASQAS is a prestigious accreditation marker for visitor experience. To become a VisitEngland accredited attraction you must receive an overall score of 60%.

The achieved overall score of 81% is commendable and reflects the investment and effort of university staff and management to expand and develop the galleries

VAQAS assessor

The assessment was broken down into seven separately scored areas. Our staff achieved the highest score of 88%, which includes customer care, knowledge and efficiency. The exceptionally high score in this area shows that the work we have done over the last couple of years on the customer experience has had a measurable impact.

Galleries engagement flies as we locked down

Our Galleries quickly adapted in-person activities and created new ways for digital audiences to access our collections, providing a much-needed respite from the anxieties created by the pandemic.

Regular Pen to Paper and Sketch Club activities moved to social media platforms and Two Minute Treasure videos have had over 11,000 views since launch.

Building on a solid level of engagement on our social media platforms, lockdown saw a huge increase in uptake of our digital offer.

Love these. I see more of the painting and think about the colours and how the artists have created the image. I didn’t expect to learn more about paint as I switched off and just thought about the jigsaw

Comment on Facebook about jigsaws

For example, in April we saw our followers on Twitter increase by 151% and “likes” on our posts were up 279% compared with March. New ideas developed specially for our digital audience, such as Collection Jigsaws, had over 2,500 visitors.

We have reached a total of 6,747 followers, with 17,472 engagements and 1,710,770 impressions across our three social media platforms in 2019–20.

Making an online exhibition of ourselves

Unable to welcome visitors to our galleries, we used Google Arts and Culture to create a version of the in-gallery exhibition Lessons in the Studio: Studio in the Seminar. We also created an online exclusive art exhibition where objects were selected by our digital visitors via a campaign run through social media.

Our Google exhibitions received a total of 2,537 views in 2019–20.

Brotherton Dome and Meeting in Room 404, New Arts Block, Fine Arts Department, 15 February 1989. © Stephen Chaplin 
Image credit University of Leeds

Brotherton Dome and Meeting in Room 404, New Arts Block, Fine Arts Department, 15 February 1989. © Stephen Chaplin Image credit University of Leeds

Exhibition loans

We extended the reach and reputation of our collections though loans of 42 items to six exhibitions, viewed by over 112,000 visitors.

The University Art Collection loaned material to one touring exhibition, “Refuge and renewal – migration and British Art”, facilitated by the Royal West of England Academy (12,364 visitors), and one local exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery “Sara Barker: All clouds are clocks all clocks are clouds” (64,603 visitors).

Significant loans from the Illustrated Book Collection, Feminist Archive North and the International Textile Collection were exhibited in:

  • “The Pre-Raphaelite Knights: Reinventing the Medieval world” at The Bowes Museum (27,818 visitors)
  • “Remembering Resistance”, at Sheffield Millennium Gallery (1,637 visitors)
  • “Unbound: Visionary women collecting textiles” at Two Temple Place, London (27 pieces, 19,304 visitors).