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National Gallery and Art Fund foster future curators for UK museums - new Trainees for Bristol and Birmingham announced

Issued May 2022

2022-23 Curatorial Traineeships supported by Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation

The National Gallery and Art Fund are pleased to announce two new Curatorial Trainees, Emma Meehan and Chloe Church, who will work on secondment with this year’s partners The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, following six months of training at the National Gallery.

The two fully funded traineeships are supported by Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation.

Image: National Gallery and Art Fund Curatorial Trainees 2022-23, Chloe Church (left) and Emma Meehan (right) at the National Gallery © The National Gallery, London

At Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Emma Meehan will assist with research into the provenance of key works, an ongoing programme of postcolonial interpretation, and the history of the institution for their bicentenary in 2023 ahead of the same anniversary for the National Gallery in 2024. Emma will be examining a triptych jointly owned by the institutions, 'The Withypool Altarpiece' by Antonio da Solario.

Emma studied her BA in English Literature and the History of Art and Architecture in Trinity College, Dublin before pursuing an MSc in Modern and Contemporary Art Curation and Criticism at the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests are varied though include portraiture, the representation of otherness in visual culture, Spanish Golden Age painting, and nuclear cultures. She enjoys pursuing her own creative projects in painting and writing during her spare time. 

Ray Barnett, Head of Collections and Archives at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, says: 

‘Emma joins us at an important moment when we celebrate our 200th anniversary and consider what a 21st-century museum can be. Emma is already uncovering vital research for us with a view to offering a different perspective on our history. I’m looking forward to working together with Emma, and very grateful to the National Gallery, Art Fund and the Vivmar Foundation for making it happen.’

At the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, Chloe Church will research their pre-1600 Italian paintings collection to inform their reinterpretation and redisplay, with the objective to make the permanent collection display in this period more accessible to a wide audience.

Chloe graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2017 with a BA and MA in Theology and Biblical Studies. She completed her AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Exeter and University of Bristol, with her thesis, 'Annunciating the Word in Image: The Visual Exegesis of the Annunciation in Counter-Reformation Italian Altarpieces'.  Chloe's research interests lie in the interpretation of the Bible in 16th- and 17th-century paintings and the reception of these artworks from their intended audiences.

Robert Wenley, Head of Collections and Deputy Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, says: 

'We are thrilled to be part of this extremely successful and inspiring programme, and delighted to be working with the National Gallery and with Chloe, who will bring tremendous scholarship, energy and enthusiasm to our Pre‐1600 Italian Paintings. This will make a significant contribution to our wider research and reinterpretation programmes as we seek to ensure our collections are as accessible as possible to our diverse local and international audiences. We are most grateful to the funders for making this possible.’

Launched in 2011, the Curatorial Traineeship Programme was jointly established by the National Gallery and Art Fund as an important curatorial training programme for the UK museums sector. It plays a key role in addressing the need to maintain and develop collections expertise, particularly in relation to historic European paintings. Previous trainees have been placed at Southampton City Art Gallery; Museums Sheffield: Graves Gallery; Manchester Art Gallery; Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; York Art Gallery;  Ferens Art Gallery, Hull; and Auckland Castle.

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, London, says:

‘We are grateful to Art Fund and the Vivmar Foundation for their continued support and very pleased with the success of the Curatorial Traineeship Programme, with all previous trainees well established in curatorial roles. The National Gallery is delighted to be able to make outstanding curatorial training more accessible to talented individuals with a passion for historic European paintings. We look forward to working with Emma and Chloe and on supporting our new trainees in developing their expertise and showcasing highlights from our partners’ collections.’

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, says: 

'The Curatorial Traineeship Programme offers young curators the opportunity of exceptional training at some of the country’s leading art institutions, while enabling them to carry out important research projects and develop expertise that enriches our public collections. Art Fund is committed to expanding opportunities for curators and increasing access to careers in museums. We look forward to seeing Emma and Chloe’s contributions to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.’

Notes to Editors 

For further press information please contact: The National Gallery press office on 020 7747 2865 or email: or for Art Fund, Lucy Hawes on 020 7225 4804 or at or Rachel Mapplebeck on 020 7225 4820 or at

About the programme

The National Gallery’s Curatorial Traineeship Programme, supported by Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation, was initiated in 2011. The programme provides the opportunity to undertake six months of curatorial skills training at the National Gallery in London, followed by a placement of a further 16 months at a regional partner museum or gallery to work on a project that sheds new light on historic European paintings, with clearly defined public outcomes. Art Fund and the National Gallery are committed to increasing access to a curatorial career for people currently underrepresented in the museum and gallery workforce.

About the Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is the art gallery, principal art collection and original concert hall for the University of Birmingham. It was founded in 1932 ‘for the study and encouragement of art and music’ by Lady Barber, who stipulated the acquisition of works ‘of that standard of quality required by the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection’. Housed in Birmingham’s most significant Art Deco building, designed by Robert Atkinson and recently assigned a Grade I listing, the Barber Institute is home to a National Designated Collection, exclusively acquired and owned by the Henry Barber Trust and with holdings that now include some 160 paintings, dating from the early Renaissance through to the late 20th century, more than 800 works on paper, as well as sculpture, decorative arts and one of the most important caches of Roman, Byzantine and medieval coins in the world. The collection features key works by Simone Martini, Bellini, Rubens, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner, Whistler, Rossetti, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Rodin, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Bellows, Magritte and Auerbach. More at, on Twitter @BarberInstitute, Instagram @barberinstitute and Facebook ‘The Barber Institute of Fine Arts’.

About Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is part of Bristol Culture & Creative Industries, a local authority service made up of 5 accredited museums and the Bristol Archives together attracting over a million visitors every year. Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is home to diverse collections from art to archaeology, history to industry, the natural and the wider world. The fine art collection at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery comprises approximately 23,000 paintings, drawings and watercolours, prints and sculptures. It covers a wide field of both the British and European Schools from the early Renaissance to the contemporary. It is particularly strong in French 19th-century painting, including works by Gustave Courbet and Alfred Sisley, and British 19th- and 20th-century art. Contemporary artists in the collection include Ai Weiwei and Banksy. Bristol also has a significant collection of Old Masters, which encompasses Italian, French, German, English and Netherlandish paintings and works on paper, with key works by Taddeo Gaddi, Giovanni Bellini, Lucas Cranach, Claude Corneille de Lyon, Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem van de Velde, Bernardo Bellotto and many others. Contrary to Hubert von Herkomer’s recommendation on the opening of Bristol Art Gallery in 1905 to “keep the collection British”, the art gallery began acquiring these pictures almost from the outset, but particularly by way of gift and bequest in the 1930s and 1940s. More at, Instagram @bristolmuseums, Twitter @bristolmuseum and Facebook ‘Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’.

About the National Gallery

The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of European paintings in the world, which is free to visit and open 361 days of the year. The Collection consists of over 2,300 paintings from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. All major traditions of Western European painting are represented, with artists including Titian, Monet, Velázquez, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. The Gallery is a world centre of excellence for the scientific study, art historical research and care of European paintings from the 13th to the early 20th century. Find out more at

About Art Fund

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. In response to Covid-19 Art Fund made £3.6 million in urgent funding available to support museums through reopening and beyond, including Respond and Reimagine grants to help meet immediate need and reimagine future ways of working. A further £2 million has been made available in 2021 for Reimagine projects. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by the 131,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year. The winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 is Firstsite in Colchester. Find out more at