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Project information

Discovering Our Hidden Persian Treasures

To bring a fresh global dimension to the Holburne Collection by restoring an unseen collection of Persian and Islamic art, much of which needs urgent conservation, and to tell the fascinating story of how these artworks were collected by Victorian adventurer/collector Miss Ellen Tanner.

June 2018 - February 2019

Charity information: Holburne Museum, Bath

Holburne Museum, Bath logo
  • Need


    The Miss Tanner Collection was donated to the Holburne in the 1920s and is an eclectic collection of 69 Persian & Islamic artworks, comprising textiles, metalwork, woodwork and lacquer. We have not been able to display the objects due to urgently needed conservation work and so the public have not discovered and enjoyed their fascinating cultural relevance. Much of our Persian and Islamic collection therefore remains unexplored, and Miss Tanner’s surprising and captivating story untold.


    Conserving the objects will enable us to place them on public display. In 2018 we will present and promote a free-to-enter exhibition interpreting the objects and their intriguing story. In the longer term, parts of the Tanner Collection will sit within the permanent galleries and the Collection will be available via Collections Online.

    We will raise awareness through an associated learning programme including lectures, talks, workshops and object handling sessions.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To facilitate public access to the Tanner Collection


    » Display objects from the Tanner Collection in a new free-to-enter exhibition
    » Develop interpretation materials (including digital resources on Collections Online)
    » Tell the fascinating story of Ellen Tanner, a female Victorian adventurer/collector, including through her own lively diaries
    » Actively promote exhibition and learning activities through local and national media

    What success will look like

    Success is attracting a strong number and diverse range of audiences to the exhibition and achieving positive visitor feedback.

    Aim 2

    To enrich our cultural offering by displaying previously unseen examples of Persian and Islamic art


    » Conserve and restore the objects in the Tanner Collection
    » Undertake catalogue and documentation processes in line with other permanent objects
    » Undertake new academic research on the social, cultural and artistic relevance of the objects
    » Present a new exhibition and interpretation (including digital resources on Collections Online) for the collection

    What success will look like

    Success is completion of the conservation programme in line with Holburne Collection & Development policy. New research made available via publication & collections.holburne.org.

    Aim 3

    To raise awareness of the historic and cultural relevance of Islamic art


    » Design and deliver an associated learning programme, including lectures and creative workshops
    » Produce new resources for schools focusing on literacy workshops inspired by Miss Tanner’s travels and her Persian and Islamic art collection
    » Provide new activities for our community partners including care home residents, deaf & hard of hearing adults and blind & partially sighted adults

    What success will look like

    Success is attracting a strong number of visitors and participants to the exhibition & learning programme, and achieving positive feedback. Also from positive peer & media reviews.

  • Impact


    Objects from the Tanner Collection will be restored and selected objects displayed, bringing a lasting new perspective to our cultural offering. We will use visitor feedback to evaluate our success.

    The curatorial team will use new academic research to work with other institutions to broker loans, build partnerships with other Miss Tanner beneficiaries, and images to generate income.

    In the longer-term it will help us engage new community groups and bring a more diverse audience to the Museum.


    Insufficient Funds – the Museum has a broad and diverse funding base so we do not over rely on one particular stream, and a campaign plan to approach a range of donors to raise our project target.

    Lack of interest in the topic –we have already run some object handling events with Patrons, Friends and people with sensory impairments using the Tanner Collection, and know audiences are fascinated by the origins of these objects.


    Activities will be reported via the Whats On Guide, Members Newsletter, website, Trust and Foundation reporting, Annual Review, onsite at the Museum and through personal correspondence where appropriate.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £50,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £23,318 Curation and conservation Curation and conservation of textile and metalwork objects and conducting new research
      £14,402 Exhibition display & delivery Exhibition display, interpretation and delivery
      £4,200 Exhibition marketing Promotion of exhibition and learning programme including through local and national press
      £4,195 Core learning programme Art workshops for schools, young people & families and adult talks, workshops and object handling
      £3,885 Outreach learning programme Art workshops & object handling for care home residents and those with visual & hearing impairments
  • Background


    The Holburne is situated in Bath: a world Heritage site & iconic tourist destination. We attract 115,000 visitors per year. Many come from the immediate area & 38% from over 2 hours away. Our learning programme attracts over 12,000 participants per year.

    In 2011 the Museum underwent a major restoration and contemporary extension with a new gallery space and café. This enabled us to dramatically extend our exhibition & learning programme & significantly grow our reputation as a leading Museum.


    The project will be free to everyone but we are keen to connect with the local education sector through our work with schools. The Museum has strong partnerships with both city universities and will use this as a springboard to work with students at all levels.

    The learning activities will engage care home residents and those affected by sensory impairment. There will be opportunities to work with the specialist decorative arts sector and promote skilled crafts.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    The Holburne has a strong track record of curatorial excellence, delivering exhibitions and contemporary commissions and is admired for its dynamic displays, innovative interpretation and vibrant learning & community engagement programmes.

    The Holburne has experience of running matched funding campaigns, and has strong supporter groups who we will approach including Members, Patrons, Major Donors, Trustees, visitors and volunteers.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dr Chris Stephens - Director

    Chris will provide oversight of the Miss Tanner project and support fundraising with Major Donors and Trustees

    Jane Ibbunson - Head Of Development

    Jane will be managing philanthropic giving and will be coordinating our activities to raise donations from the Holburne’s supporter groups

    Catrin Jones - Curator Of Decorative Art

    Catrin is lead curator for the Miss Tanner exhibition and will be managing the conservation work and conducting new research into the collection

    Christina Parker - Head Of Learning

    Christina will be managing the learning team to deliver the learning programme and community outreach activities