Toolkit intro

Connect and Activate:
a toolkit for working with artists
in museums and collections

Artworks commissioned by Connect and Activate Partners

Museums and Collections can reap huge rewards from working directly with contemporary artists and commissioning contemporary artworks.

This toolkit is designed to help you think through why and how you can work with artists to ensure that both collecting and collaboration have the best outcomes for artists, audiences, and institutions.

The information in this toolkit is divided into bite sized sections, accessed through the 12 thumbnails below.  There are questions in each section to help you and your team to consider the elements of the entire process of working with an artist.

The toolkit draws on ideas from our network and beyond. It complements a wide range of existing resources. It is not an exhaustive guide, but we hope you can use it to develop and support your own work.

Why work with artists? In our accompanying case studies our CLiC curators talk about how working with artists in collections can inspire communities, generate new tools, allow hidden histories to surface, and help imagine a better future.

This toolkit has been prepared by SCAN, as part of the Curatorial Leadership in Collections (CLiC)  project, alongside Julie-Ann Delaney Curator and Liv Laumenech Assistant Curator for the University of Edinburgh Art Collection.

Image credits clockwise from top left:

Katie Paterson, Installation detail Ideas (2021) 100 three-lined texts in micro water-jet cut stainless steel, installed at The King’s Building Campus, University of Edinburgh

Rabiya Choudhry Dad (2018) Installation view, installed at Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow

Shona Macnaughton, Here to Deliver (2020– 2021), Performance image, image copyright of the artist Here to Deliver was commissioned in 2019 by the University of Edinburgh Art Collection as part of the ‘Platforming Creativity’ project

Nathan ColeyThe Basic Material Is Not The Word But The Letter (2017), Illuminated Text on Scaffolding.  Commissioned by University of Edinburgh to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Main Library, George Square.

Lisa Roet, Golden Monkey at Climate House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (photo credit Neil Hanna)

Jimmy Robert Tobacco Flower (2021) installation view at The Hunterian, Glasgow (photo credit Eoin Carey)

Text in boxes like this provides the viewpoints and experiences of the Curators at University of Edinburgh Art Collection who worked with SCAN to create the toolkit.

CLiC Toolkit Sections

CLiC : Connect and Activate Case Studies 2021

Explore our CLiC Connect and Activate case studies

About CLiC

Curatorial Leadership in Collections (CLiC) is a network of curators working with contemporary art from collections across Scotland. CLiC was first developed in 2018 in partnership with Dr Kirstie Skinner and Outset Scotland. The members worked together between 2018 and 2023 to develop best practice and to share learning with the wider museums and galleries sector. The CLiC Connect and Activate Programme has supported a new generation of leaders to think about how collections can be both resilient and relevant in challenging times.

About SCAN

Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) connects and champions Scotland’s contemporary art community. The 300-plus named organisation and individual members work at the heart of communities from Shetland to the Scottish Borders and from East Lothian to the Western Isles. SCAN is here to stand up for the cultural, social and economic value of contemporary art – and for the people who create it. Through projects, events and online resources SCAN aims to bring the contemporary visual art community together and link in with wider conversations that shape the kind of world we want to live in.

University of Edinburgh Art Collection

The University of Edinburgh has been engaged with the practices of commissioning, purchasing and displaying the work of artists for nearly 350 years.   Alongside commissioning new work, displaying the collection across campus, and lending to external venues, heavy emphasis is placed on the acquisition and use of artworks in the support and development of research and teaching. You can find out more about the collection and the work of the Centre for Research collections by clicking here.


What will this toolkit help you do?

Every artist, context, and project is different.  There is no exact template to follow, but it is hoped this toolkit will provide you with an understanding of:

  • Approaches to working on projects with artists, through case studies and reflections
  • How to initiate, manage and collaboratively work with artists

You’ll find additional guidance given in the links, digital resources, case studies and templates provided.

How to read the toolkit

The toolkit has not been arranged to be read only in a specific order but rather written with the acknowledgment that sections might be dipped into as plans develop or questions arise.

However, thought and consideration was given to the order of sections generally. For example, selecting an artist is not the first thing to consider and so we have purposefully not made this the first button to click and consider when wanting to work with an artist.

It is clear from the information covered in the toolkit that there is much to consider before thinking about how you will choose an artist to work with in your organisation.


This is a live toolkit.  Please help us to develop and improve it by leaving comments in our feedback form.  Thank you.

Funders of this toolkit