Report calls for a more strategic approach to museum funding

Simon Stephens, 14.11.2017
Mendoza Review: An Independent Review of Museums in England published
Museums need to use existing funding better rather than expect significant additional money, according to a long-awaited review of museums in England, which was published this week.

The Mendoza Review: An Independent Review of Museums in England was led by Neil Mendoza, a former banker and non-executive board member of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It was commissioned by government in response to the 2016 Culture White Paper, which called for “a wide-ranging review of national, local and regional museums, working closely with Arts Council England (ACE) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)”.

“It is unlikely that there will be significant additional money available for the sector in the immediate future,” writes Mendoza, in his introduction to the 100-plus page report. “The main thrust of our recommendations is, therefore, to ensure that we use existing funding in the best way possible.”

The review, the first of England’s museum sector in more than a decade, recommends that funding should be distributed in a more strategic and joined-up way. The report calls for the creation a Museums Action Plan by September 2018 that would be designed to “help England’s museums and galleries to thrive and grow”.

The review asks ACE and HLF to show how they will deliver nine key priorities that will enable museums to diversify audiences, contribute to the identity of their local area and become more accessible.

The nine key priorities that the Mendoza Review recommends that DCMS, ACE and HLF include in the Museums Action Plan are:

● Helping adapt to today’s funding environment
● Improving the curation and management of collections so that they are accessible to the public
● Growing and diversifying audiences
● Ensuring museums contribute to the priorities of the local area
● Delivering cultural education
● Developing future leaders
● Diversifying the workforce of museums
● Increasing digital capacity and using digital technology to create innovative and engaging exhibition content
● Working internationally

“We welcome the review and are pleased to see government recognition of many of the issues that the Museums Association (MA) raised during the consultation period,” said Sharon Heal, the director of the MA. “In particular, DCMS has accepted the need for a strategic funding approach to ensure that funding bodies work together. 

“We are also pleased to see recognition of the opportunities that we identified for the sector relating to the social impact of museums, particularly in supporting placemaking, wellbeing and spaces for debate and would be happy to work with government and agencies to take forward recommendations in particular around workforce, diversity and collections.

“The report recognises the severe funding difficulties experienced by many museums, therefore it is disappointing that the government has failed to identify any new resources or capacity to improve the sustainability of the sector. The government’s own figures show that local authority funding for museums in England in 2016 was 31% lower in real terms than in 2010. This dramatic reduction in core funding has resulted in museum closures, reduced opening hours, the loss of museum expertise and low morale.”

Alongside the Mendoza Review, the government has published a strategic review of DCMS-sponsored museums, which examines the form and functions of 16 arm's length bodies (15 museums and the British Library).

Links and downloads

The Mendoza Review: An Independent Review of Museums in England

Strategic review of DCMS-sponsored museums

Museums Association response to the Mendoza Review

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: Sharon Heal discusses review with Neil Mendoza (51:40)

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