The policy column

Alistair Brown, Issue 118/02, p17, 01.02.2018
Ups and downs of museum life
Many of you took the time last autumn to complete the Museums Association’s annual survey – and thanks to you, we’ve been able to gather a rich and varied set of data and comments that paints a fascinating picture of our sector.

The results reflect familiar trends: the impact of austerity; loss of museum staff; hollowing-out of skills and expertise; growing maintenance and documentation backlogs; and the difficulties faced by many museums that have moved to independent status recently.

This year, uncertainty over Brexit joins the list of worries for museums, as many in the sector fear for the future of European colleagues, EU funding, and cultural and scientific exchanges.

But the findings also reflect positive trends. Most museums report growing or stable visitor numbers, and many hope to capitalise on the weak pound by attracting more overseas visitors.

Elsewhere, museums report growing levels of work targeted at specific communities, such as black, Asian and minority ethnic, and LGBTQ+ groups, and on specific themes such as health and wellbeing. They appear to be prioritising work with educational organisations, as well as maintaining high-quality events programmes that are crucial in making museums valued by wide audiences.

Those impacts are vital, and we’ll be working with funders throughout this year to ensure that museums are supported in their efforts to boost their social, cultural and economic impacts, so they continue to thrive.

Alistair Brown is the policy officer at the Museums Association