Vox pop

Issue 110/11, p21, 01.11.2010
What should the Museums Association's policy priorities now be?
Rachael Rogers, president, Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales

“The demise of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) means the Museums Association (MA) will likely be the only body with a UK-wide view, so it will need to ensure its policies reflect that and allow for different approaches in the home countries.

The MA has tended to keep out of individual museum closures, but it is likely that more will be under threat, and the MA will need to be proactive and have an underlying policy. Difficult times will require more advocates, so policy should be developed, alongside redefining relationships with governing bodies. 

Finally, economic worries should not divert us from our core business, and the MA should continue with supportive policies relating to collections work.”

Rhian Tritton, director of museum and educational services, ss Great Britain, Bristol

“Instability begets change, and in order to emerge stronger from the current unsettled period, museums need to be light on their feet and able to demonstrate to decision-makers that they offer cultural, social and economic benefits.

The MA can help them, but only if it’s clear about its function. Is it possible to be both a broad membership organisation and a lobbying body? Can it speak for the whole museum community, or are the gaps between local authority, national, university and independent museums too vast for one organisation to bridge?

Concentrating its efforts where it can make the most difference will ensure the MA continues to punch above its weight.”

Tony Butler, director, Museum of East Anglian Life, Suffolk

“While it’s necessary to hold Messrs Hunt and Vaizey to account, the MA needs to be more than a shop steward for museums.

I think some of its most interesting work was when it went more “off-piste”. Its work on sustainability was especially inventive. The MA should inspire others to reimagine museums, helping them think laterally about their purpose.

Rather than fight cuts at every turn, its policy priorities should be to support diversity and distinctiveness, one of the sector’s great strengths. The MA should lead by example, seeking collaboration with bodies cross the cultural and third sector, showing that the ability to adapt to new circumstances is the key to resilience.”

Ben Cowell, assistant director, external affairs, National Trust

“It might be tempting, in a time of cuts, to scale back on policy activity. But, more than ever, we need a powerful advocate for the value of museums and the important work they do.

The MA’s immediate priority should be ensuring that vital Museums, Libraries and Archives Council functions continue to be delivered under the new arrangements. At the same time, it should continue to champion new thinking about sustainability, in financial, social and environmental terms.

Securing the right conditions within which the sector can develop increased capability for enterprise and innovation will be critical going forwards, as will engaging with – and helping to define – the Big Society agenda.”