The policy column

Alistair Brown, Issue 116/07, p17, 01.07.2016
Speaking out about shutting down
What happens when a museum closes down? It can be an overwhelmingly difficult period for staff and volunteers as they are forced to confront the loss of collections, buildings, and ties with audiences and communities.

Closing is not something we enjoy contemplating, and most of us put it to the back of our minds if we are running busy, thriving museums.

Nevertheless, with the growing threat of more museum closures over the next four years, it’s important that we should be prepared for all eventualities – even those that we seek to avoid.

At present, there is a real lack of guidance for museums in this kind of crisis situation. How should we deal with liquidators, disposals, and the loss of key cultural institutions? Talking with people involved in recent closures and crises has revealed the dearth of clear answers to these questions – often contributing to a sense of isolation and desperation for those in the thick of it.

That’s why the Museums Association’s (MA) ethics committee is now looking to produce guidance on museum closure in a way that is consistent with our Code of Ethics, and the law. A sub-committee will work with partners across the sector to address this issue over the coming months, including at a session at the MA Conference in Glasgow. We’re particularly keen to hear from those who have faced a closure or “near miss” scenario and who would like to contribute to our research. If that sounds like you, get in touch.