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Start-up phase

MDS is currently a start-up project run jointly by three founding organisations: Art UK, Collections Trust and the University of Leicester’s Institute for Digital Culture. The start-up is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through a grant from its Digital Accelerator programme to Art UK. Work on the funded project began in November 2022 and will be completed by the end of May 2024. It is governed by the detailed grant agreement between Bloomberg Philanthropies and Art UK, with monitoring and support via the programme’s UK delivery partner, Arts Council England’s Digital Culture Network.

A new charitable company

During the start-up phase, the three founding organisations will establish a jointly-owned company to run the Museum Data Service as a legal entity in its own right. With pro bono legal input from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and specific advice on points of charity law from Womble Bond Dickinson, we plan to register the new entity as a charitable company early in 2024.

User advisory group

Our early adopters are providing feedback as well as data during the start-up project. The group will be formalised and around ten additional members recruited through an open recruitment process, including researchers and developers interested in using MDS data. The aim will be to get a diverse group that represents a range of users and can act as critical friends on matters such as the user experience, comms messaging, training and other support needs, data ethics and future priorities.

Strategic advisory group

A further group, drawn from the relevant stakeholders, will help locate MDS squarely within relevant strategic priorities of key policy-making and funding bodies across the UK’s cultural and research sectors. The group will also help the MDS engage with comparable initiatives outside the UK and with relevant initiatives in other UK sectors.

Contractual arrangements during the start-up phase

Art UK is the operating name of the Public Catalogue Foundation, registered as a limited company in England and Wales (no 04573564), as a charity in England and Wales (no 1096185) and as a charity in Scotland (no SC048601). During the start-up phase, data processing and data deposit agreements entered into by organisations sharing data with MDS will initially be with the Public Catalogue Foundation. When MDS is established as a legal entity in its own right, these existing agreements will be assigned to the new charity.

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