Our latest Annual Report details our work in 2020/21 across the UK. Our focus has been on supporting our members as they grappled with a new reality. We have responded to government consultations as we advocate for the essential value of museums, and we have worked to secure emergency financing in all four nations, including our successful campaign with other sector organisations for the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.
“The last year has been unlike any other experienced by museums around the UK or by our communities. I am full of admiration for the resolute, often innovative ways, that as a sector we have met the many very real difficulties presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to work together with a renewed clarity of purpose.”
Gillian Findlay, Museums Association president
Members told us how their experience of work was changing and we tailored our services accordingly. We launched more frequent e-newsletters, new guidance and mentoring programmes, wellbeing hubs and a redundancy tracker, and we developed safe online spaces for people to meet and support one another, whether on furlough or managing in crisis. Over 1,000 people have participated to date and we are committed to continuing this support for as long as it is needed.
Conference went completely online for the first time, reaching more than 3,500 attendees. This felt an important and necessary way to ensure safe, accessible engagement, accelerating our plans for use of digital, and for skills development to deliver virtually. It is clear this was a timely step change and that hybrid engagement will become the norm for many of us in the future.
As in museums, there were major challenges for the MA itself – not least a drop in individual membership and cancellation of events, the impacts of which significantly reduced our income and required us to make a strategic restructure.
We also experienced some real positives, achieving our highest ever level of institutional membership, up 16% – a testament to the value members place on us particularly when times are tough. We delivered funding in record amounts through the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund’s Sustaining Engagement with Collections grants and a new £600,000 Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund from UK Research and Investment (UKRI) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). We supported individual members through our Benevolent Fund Covid Support Scheme and worked with the Museum Freelance Network to distribute funding for freelancers. The Manifesto for Learning and Engagement in Museums was launched and we continued to support the work of the Decolonisation Guidance Working Group.
Throughout the year, we kept our focus on our values and on progressive change in the sector, advocating for museums to address racism in society and the climate crisis. As a result of the activity in these priority areas, we are launching several new pieces of work over 2021/22, including Decolonisation Guidance, a review of Local Authority Funding, Museums Change Lives Scotland, a Front of House Charter for Change and new strands of funding for the sector.
The coming year promises to be a busy and eventful one and as recovery begins, slowly and bumpily, we must give credit to our committed board members, reps and especially our staff team who have supported one another so compassionately and adapted where and how they work so effectively.
We are all hugely grateful for the grant received from the Culture Recovery Fund which has helped to sustain our work, and our support for museums, which in turn are enabling positive change with their local communities as a critical part of the recovery.
Annual General Meeting 2021
The report also contains the agenda for our Annual General Meeting, which was held on 8 November 2021 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.