The Beaney is halfway through a groundbreaking volunteer project, designed specifically for students affected by anxiety. It is funded by the Museums Association Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund – a fund for projects that develop collections to achieve social impact.

The project is centred around undertaking a Collections Review. Volunteers, working with museum staff and art experts, follow an established system to record, research and assess items from The Beaney’s stored collection – many of which have been in storage for many years or very little is known about them. 

This important work will give the museum new information and insight, allowing the general public to gain enhanced access to the Collection in the future. 

There will be an exhibition hosted in The Beaney’s Special Exhibitions Gallery at the conclusion of the Review. With key input from the volunteers, the exhibition will feature the significant, unusual and interesting finds of the project.

So far we have rediscovered a watercolour of a Canterbury scene by Paul Sandby, one of the founders of the Royal Academy, a Dinos Chapman print and a Chris Ofili artwork that glows in the dark!

‘The Friars, Canterbury – Evening’ by Paul Sandby

We hope this project will result in not only an upturn for our volunteers’ mental health but also provide useful skills and experience that will better equip them for a competitive and ever changing job market.

Volunteers have already benefited from a conservation workshop, led by a specially commissioned art expert, using items from the Collection with another workshop planned for next month – this time focussing on different printmaking techniques.

One volunteer has said she feels encouraged to be an active participant in the process and that the project has helped her professionally as well. Whilst another has said “I cannot explain how grateful I am that The Beaney is specifically opening their doors to those who suffer from anxiety”.

We can’t wait to see what else the project uncovers!

Find out more about the project here.


Since its launch in 2011, the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund has awarded 90 projects with grants totaling £6.7m in 14 funding rounds. Between 2017 and 2019 it is offering a total of £3.5m in grants to Museums Association members, as well as providing events and resources for the whole sector.