Our latest Annual Report details our work in 2021/22 across the UK. Over the last 12 months, the museum sector has tentatively reopened its doors to a world at once familiar and uncertain. Questions about if and how visitors would return, what the hybrid workplace would look and feel like, even whether the sector could be economically viable once again have dominated discussions.
But alongside the uncertainty, opportunity for positive intervention has also been embraced. Museums have reviewed – and in many cases reworked – their offer, responding to the needs of their communities and exploring with them the global issues impacting life locally.
At the Museums Association, we have worked energetically to listen and understand the concerns and the hopes of museums across the UK; to support them as they navigate their new environment, and to also pioneer new ways of working. Throughout, we have been guided by our values, our commitment to social justice and the wellbeing of our members.
“If 2020 was a tumultuous year, 2021 has brought its own challenges in the need for rapid transition. Covid-19 changed so much of life as we had known it, but as the UK determined to look toward recovery, it became clear that a return to ‘how things were before’ could neither be assured nor, often, was desirable.”
Gillian Findlay, Museums Association president
Our Benevolent Fund was originally established to alleviate the financial distress of members, and now also supports their professional development. This year, a record amount of more than £37,000 was awarded in grants to enable inclusive membership, event attendance, learning fees and Covid Hardship support.
It has been heartening to see individual membership levels grow again this year across all nations of the UK, as we continue to advocate for the sector with a range of partners. We commissioned new research into local authority museum funding, and are using the evidence gathered to make the urgent case for investment during economically volatile times.
We responded to a number of government consultations, including on the Levelling Up Policy, Spending Review 2021 and Scottish Cultural Funding. We also published museum manifestoes for the May elections in Wales and Northern Ireland, and a manifesto for culture in Scotland.
The nature and effectiveness of our digital offer is also evolving. Our first hybrid conference, located physically in Liverpool and attracting virtual delegates and speakers from across the UK and internationally, provided invaluable learning. We have continued to develop our range of content, meetings and events across web and social media platforms, with functionality and accessibility for users being our main drivers.
Several publications stand out as highlights this year. All of them evidence the commitment of various partners, reps, stakeholders and allies to address common objectives and together achieve our campaign goals. We produced the first guest-edited issue of Museums Journal with Museum X, the team behind the Black British Museum, and we progressed our campaign for a more diverse and inclusive workforce by working with the Front of House Museums network to launch the Charter for Change.
We created a new Museum Essentials online training module on anti-racism to support understanding and best practice in the sector, and thanks to the dedication of the Decolonisation Guidance Working Group and Ethics Committee, we published Supporting Decolonisation in Museums guidance – a hugely important tool for museums everywhere committed to making lasting change happen.
Annual General Meeting 2022
The report also contains the agenda for our Annual General Meeting, which was held on 3 November 2022 as part of our annual conference. The AGM opened with a keynote from our president, and finished with the announcement of the winners of the Museums Change Lives Awards.
This year we ran our AGM digitally. We worked with our independent voting partner MiVoice to allow all members to vote before and during the AGM. All individual members and membership contacts at member organisations received emails in the run up to the event, detailing how to vote on the agenda items. Members can view the agenda in the links below.
The main agenda items were the individual and institutional membership fees, which will be frozen again for the third year running. With inflation at very high levels, we understand that this has severe impact on all our members.
Our costs are increasing, but we recognise the importance of supporting the sector at this time, and we would ask our members in turn to support us by retaining their membership and encouraging colleagues to join so that we can continue to make the case to governments for all museums and workers in the sector.