Thoughts on 2017

Sharon Heal, 19.12.2017
The MA's director looks back on the highs and lows of 2017
As 2017 draws to a close it's a good time to reflect on the year that’s nearly gone and think about the year ahead.

Many of us started the year coming to terms with the fact that Trump had been elected president of the United States and trying to work out a) why and b) what it might mean for museums and the communities that they serve.

Many museums in the UK collected in response to the Women’s Marches and at the Museums Association (MA) we published our Manifesto for Tolerance and Inclusion, which called on museums to use their trusted spaces for debate and discussion and to challenge ignorance, intolerance, prejudice and bigotry.

Many museums rose to this challenge and have been working closely with communities throughout the year despite the difficult financial situation they have faced. Cuts to local authority budgets have hit some museums hard and we know that there is more of the same to come next year.

The MA will continue to make the case for public funding for museums and for a strategic and joined-up response from funders, politicians and stakeholders in 2018.

And we will be rolling out our new workforce strategy which will provide professional development opportunities for people at all stages in their careers.

This year has seen a plethora of reviews, strategies and consultations in the sector. Museum and cultural strategies are being reviewed and consulted on in Scotland and Wales and the MA has been working with the Welsh Federation and others to develop a new museums strategy for Wales and working with the sector in Scotland to contribute to the Scottish culture strategy consultation and the review of the museums strategy.

In England we have responded to the Museums Review and are having ongoing conversations about how the MA can support the sector to implement its recommendations.

And in Northern Ireland our big focus will be around our annual conference in Belfast and how we can support the sector to take part and make the case for museums in the run up to the event.

Over the next year the MA will continue to promote the value of museums to society through our Museums Change Lives campaign.

We are working with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and representatives from across the sector to develop a framework that can help museums understand and improve how they can best work in partnership with their communities.

We know that the funding situation will be a challenge for many museums in 2018 and the work of the Museums Taskforce will resume in the new year with further recommendations for funders, stakeholders and the sector on relevance and collections.

This month we announced the successful recipients for the latest round of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, which the MA administers. The fund supports innovative practice that connects collections to communities and we want to build on that over the next year.

In the new year we will launch research into the current state of collections and from that we hope to develop new programmes and initiatives that can help us better care for and share our collections.

As the year closes and we reflect on the highs and lows, the Brexit bungles and the Trump tantrums, I feel confident that whatever challenges the new year brings, museums can work with communities to face them together.