The policy column | Museums are needed more than ever

Sharon Heal, Issue 120/01, 03.01.2019
As the dust settles after the general election many people who work in museums will be wondering what the next five years holds. Of course the Museums Association (MA) has no crystal ball, but one thing is certain – that more uncertainty is the order of the day. The big challenges include Brexit, the economy, the Irish border and a possible second independence referendum in Scotland. And as the election demonstrated, we are divided in our communities as well as among nations.

So what role can museums play and what can the MA do to support the sector? After the cuts of the past decade museums are some of the few civic spaces left standing. That means we have a vital role to play as healing and convening spaces. We can bring people together and use our collections to lever conversations that couldn’t happen anywhere else. And we can use objects to get us all thinking about what identity and place might mean in a post-Brexit world.

We should also be conscious that there are some issues that we need to take a stand on – we can be spaces for debate and reflection but the rise in intolerance is something that we should all be concerned about. The MA will continue to make the case for inclusive, participatory museums at the heart of our communities. I’ve got a feeling that we might need them now more than ever.