Crisis, what crisis?

Maurice Davies, 03.07.2012
An optimistic view
I've had a week of contrasts. On the one hand I've been working on the Museums Association's latest cuts survey, which shows that for many of you things are grim. Over 50% of museums have been cut and over 40% have cut staff.

On an encouraging note, most of the reader comments on newspaper websites reporting the survey have been supportive of museums, such as these at The Independent and The Guardian.

My prize for the wittiest comment goes to Naeem, who on the website of the Iranian Press TV wryly responded to the news of museum closures: "Well I'm sorry to hear that, so now maybe you can return the stolen items back to its [sic] rightful owners if you don't mind."

I've also spent the week having a much happier look at museums. I've been finalising the discussion paper for the Museums Association's Museums 2020 initiative.

It's packed with inspiring examples of the ways museums can make a difference to individuals, communities, society and the environment, and it's full of passionate thoughts from people who see a bright future for museums.

In a few weeks, we’ll be publishing the Museums 2020 discussion paper and opening up the debate much more widely on the website and at free workshops round the UK.

I also spent a day at a workshop for the Research Network to Advance 21st Century Museum Ethics. We looked at ways in which museums can share responsibility for their collections with communities, particularly communities of origin who might have sought the return of things from museum collections.

We heard interesting examples from New Zealand where, once a museum had properly recognised the interests of Maori communities, former claimants now wanted the museum to continue to care for things they previously regarded as stolen (to use Naeem's word).

What struck me most about the day is that it's a wonderful thing if a museum object is claimed for repatriation: it means some people care really passionately about it.

Lots of people in the sector, and in the wider world, care deeply about museums and are optimistic about their potential to make the world a better place. I share that optimism.

There are many problems in UK museums (by no means all related to cuts), but I firmly believe museums will continue to get better, have more of an impact and matter more.

Comments

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Jonathan Gammond
MA Member
Access & Interpretation Officer, Wrexham County Borough Museum
05.07.2012, 00:06
Iranian Press TV has never been one for jokes and humour, especially if you are a citizen of the state of Israel. A quick look at its website and you certainly get an alternative view of the world, though not an alternative comedian's.