Generation C

Sharon Heal, 10.02.2016
Will we be the generation that closes museums?
Will we be the generation that closes museums? This question was posed at the Welsh government debate on the report of the Expert Review of Local Museum Provision in Swansea last week.

The findings of the hard-hitting independent review make grim reading; only 25% of local museums meet minimum standards of collections care, display and interpretation and many lack the expertise or resources to develop their services.

Councillors at the meeting described the difficult decisions that they are having to make - and in light of the swingeing cuts to their budgets their task is an unenviable one.

Many elected members know the value of local culture and heritage and have fought hard over the years to protect and invest in museums. But words of support are not enough when councils throughout the UK are declaring their intentions to slash culture funding.

The review took a long hard look at museums in Wales and came up with some interesting suggestions for what local authorities and government might do. The main message is that the status quo is unsustainable.

There were of course the usual suggestions that new forms of governance and business models should be sought and that income generation should be pursued more vigorously. These are all well and good – and the best museums have already implemented many of them.

But there was also recognition from the report’s authors that government should take responsibility for local museum provision and that new structures, and crucially new funds needed to be put in place.

Ken Skates, the duty minister for culture, attended the event and said: “If we fail our museums, we fail our communities.” Yet there has been no official government response to the report and the situation for some museums is now critical.

Verbal support for museums is welcome, however those working in the sector had a rather more urgent request: intervene now or museums will close and collections, history, expertise and local heritage will be lost.