A partnership of four of the leading museums in the Kent and Medway Museum Partnership, including Canterbury Museums and Galleries, has secured a four-year funding programme worth £980,000 from Arts Council England.

This regular funding, from the National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) scheme, will enable each museum to develop activities that will have a positive impact upon their local communities, audiences from further afield and children and young people.

The four museums – The Historic Dockyard Chatham (lead partner), Canterbury Museums and Galleries, Guildhall Museum, Rochester, and Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery – will develop a range of programmes using the funding, starting in April 2018, with the aim of enhancing the services that museums provide across the county.

The programmes will cover several themes, including volunteering, the visitor experience, the role that museums play in health and wellbeing and the role of the arts and artists within the museum sector.

Canterbury Museums and Galleries, which has been awarded £200,000, will lead the health and wellbeing theme, building upon the award winning and nationally recognised work that it has already done to develop a therapeutic museum at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. The Beaney is part of the national Happy Museum initiative which looks at how museums can support wellbeing.

The city’s unique collections will be used to enhance wellbeing, provide a dementia friendly museum and involve members of the local community in shaping their museum.

Chairman of Canterbury City Council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “The Beaney has already had a hugely positive impact through its health and wellbeing programme. This generous Arts Council England NPO funding will allow this valuable work to be further developed, enhancing the lives of people in the local community.”

Director of Canterbury Museums and Galleries, Joanna Jones, said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded this significant investment and are delighted to be working even more closely with the Kent and Medway Museum Partnership.

“The funding will enable us to build upon and extend the award winning work that we have already done to improve people’s wellbeing. We will be collaborating with the community to involve them in their museum and will be actively using the varied collections for therapeutic purposes.”

Preservation and Education Director at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, Richard Holdsworth, said: “This is a great opportunity for museums across Kent and Medway to work together to improve services and share their learning with partners across the whole county.

“The four-year funding will provide additional resources to all the organisations involved and we are extremely grateful to Arts Council England who have shown confidence in our partnership by announcing us as one of their National Portfolio Organisations.”

This is the first time that museums have been able to apply for NPO funding, as previous funding rounds were for arts organisations. Nationally, a total of 72 museums are receiving this new funding out of a total of 831 organisations within the portfolio, which includes nine museum organisations from across the southeast region.