Simon Stephens, Issue 117/01, p4, 01.01.2017
Hold tight, it's going to be another bumpy year
If 2016 was marked by uncertainty, upheaval and change, will this year provide stability, clarity and calm? Not a chance – for museums, like many other sectors, change will continue to be the one constant.

After the monumental events of last year, it would be foolhardy to make too many predictions, although we can look forward to some important developments in the museum sector.

In Northern Ireland, the direction that Brexit will take is likely to dominate discussions, particularly the issue of how the border with the Republic will work, which will affect tourism and joint working across the whole of Ireland.

In Scotland, it looks as if local government spending will be squeezed hard, which will have an impact on museums. A recent report by the Accounts Commission, the public spending watchdog for local government in Scotland, concluded that all “councils face future funding gaps” and will need to make “tough decisions around their finances”.

Local authority budgets are also severely stretched in England, as councils deal with less money from central government, rising demand for services and increasing costs. The forthcoming Museums Review (see p12) needs to tackle this head on. It has to offer some long-term solutions to the funding crisis engulfing many regional museums in England.

It will also be interesting to see how the end of the Major Partner Museums system works out, as museums are integrated into Arts Council England’s National Portfolio programme.

In Wales, many museums have been left in limbo by the Welsh government’s failure to implement the Expert Review of Local Museum Provision in Wales. As a result, an opportunity to develop new models for museum delivery could be lost.

There will, however, be ways for the sector to grow and develop. The Museum Taskforce, convened by the Museums Association, will highlight some of the opportunities. Some solutions might come in England through the devolution of powers to local government. And all over the UK, the role museums can play in tourism and cultural regeneration will continue to be important, highlighted by Hull being the 2017 UK City of Culture.

But overall, it looks like it will be another bumpy year. Here’s to a challenging but exciting 2017.