Rat Race: The Hunt for Funding

As any academic or grad student will tell you, finding and securing funding is one of the most challenging and important elements of life as a researcher. Firstly, funding provides validation, proving that your peers and colleagues believe in the value of your research, and your abilities as a researcher. Secondly, funding is financially necessary, both for the day to day expenses of life, and in order to make research trips, present papers, undertake conferences, network and organise exhibitions.

The assessment of the applications for Worn Through’s first ever research award is currently underway, and therefore this seemed like an appropriate time to reflect on how, and where, funding can be secured. What is in many ways quite unique about the Worn Through award, is the flexibility it gives the potential recipient. It is not specifically for research visits, museum projects, conference attendance or image reproduction, and this is certainly reflected in the applications we have received.

However, not all research awards are this adaptable. There a quite a lot of different sources to consider, and each needs a different approach when applying. This month, I will focus on highlighting various sources of funding in the US and UK which I have had experience of, and what they might be suitable for. I will follow this up next month by considering my own experiences of applying for funding, and what has made my applications successful.

Pasold Research Fund

Pasold fund research into all branches of textile history including the history of dress and fashion. However, they are particularly interested in projects which have a lasting outcome, such as an exhibition or publication. Their awards are split into various categories, such as the MA and PhD awards, intended to cover general research trip costs, as well as project grants and grants for staff based in UK museums. The deadlines for the different grants are spread throughout the year.

The Textile Society, UK

For students of textiles, The Textile Society offers bursaries to anyone in full time education on a textiles or fashion related course. These grants are usually for practical textile work, rather than for research. However the Museum, Archives and Conservation award may be of interest to grad students who are interested in museum work. This award provides £5000 to help create an exhibition, and would be a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with a museum.

The Costume Society of America and The Costume Society, UK

The CSA provides perhaps the widest ranging number of awards, with individual conference presentation, research, travel, collections care, exhibition, and publication grants. Each of these awards is for a different amount and has different criteria. The UK Costume Society does not have so large a selection of awards. Their awards simply cover symposium attendance and museum placements, as well as prizes for garment reproduction.

KG Ponting Memorial Fund

This fund is specifically to allow students to travel to the Fashion Museum in Bath, UK, to spend three days studying garments from the collection. This also provides the recipients with access to the library at the study facilities, and a free ticket around the museum itself. Usually, research visits to the Fashion Museum are restricted to a half day, which has meant that any research I had done there in the past always felt rushed and incomplete. Having three full days really allows you to take your time, discuss things with the collections assistants, and have a far more rewarding research experience.

Period and Topic Specific Societies

Alongside fashion and textile sources, it is also worthwhile considering period and topic specific sources, or sources from other wider fields. Although some snobbery certainly does still exist towards fashion studies from some quarters, I have found a lot of history and art history societies and associations are very encouraging towards applications from dress history scholars.

Your Home Institution

Sometimes, you just have to go by the motto “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Back during my first week as an MA student at the University of York, a PhD student confided in me that our department had its own financial resources that it could distribute to students to cover research, conference, and book costs. Although this funding wasn’t competitive, it did help cover the practicalities of research.

There are an awful lot of different funding sources out there, and it can be rather confusing. This short list has only touched on a very small number of those available. Next month, I will reflect on what makes a good funding application.

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