A fertility doll made from elephant dung and decorated with toxic abrus seeds will benefit from significant funding for Scotland’s museums this year.
The unusual item is just one of several hazardous artefacts, in the care of St Andrews University, which could be made available to researchers, thanks to the £56,000 award from Museums Galleries Scotland.
The national development body has granted £300,000 in total to nine organisations across Scotland, including three in Tayside in Fife.
Culture Perth and Kinross receives £59,000 to support redevelopment, promote partnerships and preserve its collections, while Dundee Museum of Transport will get £37,666 to employ a development officer who will help expand the attraction.
Katie Eagleton, director of museums at St Andrews University, said its grant would allow it to develop and understand the management of collections in their care which include hazardous substances.
This includes the fertility doll created by the Gwembe Tonga people of Zambia.
“We are delighted to receive this support from the Museum Development Fund towards an ambitious project to survey and more proactively manage hazardous objects in the collections,” said Katie.
“This will mean that we can safely open up access to more of the collections for researchers, make ambitious plans to feature objects from across our collections in exhibitions and programmes in the new Wardlaw Museum, and plan for future collections moves and storage projects.”
Culture Perth and Kinross, the charitable trust that runs the region’s museums, said its award would allow it to progress vital conservation work on 450 key exhibits destined for display in the new City Hall Museum.
Interim head of museums and collections Gillian Findlay said: “We can now commission specialists with experience in conserving archaeological, social history and world cultures materials to work closely with us on Perth and Kinross’ fabulous museum collections which are not just of local significance, but of national and international importance.”
The award to Dundee Museum of Transport will fund a two-year contract for a museum development officer who will promote and help expand the attraction.
Chairman Peter Webber said the intention was to have a member of staff in place by the end of March.
“We’re absolutely delighted,” he said. “We’re a volunteer-run organisation and to have an extra member of staff, albeit it’s part-time, makes a huge difference to us.
“That one extra person will make sure our Facebook profile and website are up to date and promote us to a wider audience.”
Lucy Casot, Museums Galleries Scotland chief executive, said: “We are delighted to support museums and galleries in Scotland to continue their ambitious approach to making the fascinating collections in their care accessible to everyone.”