Museum funding - Museums Association

Museum funding

Museums and collections are at risk

We campaign for public investment in our museums.

We work actively with government, agencies, local authorities and sector bodies across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect and improve existing funding settlements, identify innovative new ways to resource our museums and galleries, and to ensure that any additional funding is spent where it is most needed.

We believe that public investment is a vital element of a mixed funding model for museums, which also includes earned income, lottery grants and philanthropic and charitable giving. Public investment is important because it underpins the public benefit that museums provide in three key areas:

  • Enabling museums to work with their local communities through learning, education, outreach and partnership programmes
  • Supporting the long-term care, interpretation and access to public collections
  • Supporting local economies through local supply chains, high quality jobs and tourism

Our campaign for public investment is important in the context of the difficult operating environment that museums have faced for many years.

Since 2010, the majority of museums in the UK that are in receipt of public funds have experienced cuts to their budgets.

The impact of funding cuts has been felt across the museums sector, resulting in redundancies, loss of skills and expertise, reduced opening hours and, in some notable cases, museum closures. We are concerned that further cuts will put more museums at risk of closure, and will undermine the ability of others to deliver a high quality service.

The MA’s position on sector funding

In 2017, the Museums Taskforce, which was convened by the MA, published a number of statements on funding for the sector.

Museums Taskforce report and recommendations

Statement on Museum Funding: England

Statement on Museum Funding: Northern Ireland

Statement on Museum Funding: Scotland

Statement on Museum Funding: Wales

We have also campaigned for the Museums and Galleries Exhibitions Tax Relief, and the simplification of Business Rates and Gift Aid for museums.

Sale of collections

Because of the pressure on budgets some museums are considering selling items from collections. We hold the Code of Ethics for Museums which states that everyone who works in museums and galleries should treat collections as cultural, scientific or historic assets, not financial assets.

Our surveys of the sector

Throughout the 2010s – a decade of cuts and austerity – we surveyed the museum sector to gain an insight into museums’ finances, and other indicators such as visitor numbers, school visits, project work, and employment and volunteer figures. Below are each each of our survey reports.


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