The National Army Museum reopened on 30 March following a £23m overhaul

NAM pledges its support for regimental museums

Rob Sharpe, 117.04, p6-7, 01.04.2017
Revamped National Army Museum to host a conference for regimental museums to assess how it can best serve the cash-strapped institutions
The National Army Museum (NAM), which reopened last month following a £23m refurbishment, has pledged its continued support for cash-strapped regimental museums around the country.

The London institution is to host a regimental museums conference in the near future to canvas institutions’ opinions on how it might best serve their interests, according to Ian Maine, the NAM’s assistant director of collections.

“In effect, the reopening gives us a new container in which to do things,” he says. “We’ve been doing work with community engagement, but the real work starts this month.

“We were keen to introduce our new museum to the regimental museums community. There’s more to do – there are more challenges. That’s something we want to explore with those museums.”

According to the NAM’s regimental liaison officer, Julian Farrance, a 2011 report for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) made recommendations regarding regimental museum funding that are now being implemented.

Last year, 14 regimental museums lost their MoD funding, with more set to have their subsidies axed in 2022 and 2030.

Eventually, the number of MoD-funded regimental or corps museums will fall from 69 to 36. Local military museums have also been hit by recent cuts to local authority budgets.
“There is a clear pattern of withdrawal, which has been indicated since 2011,” says

Farrance. “So it’s not as though this has come out of nowhere. Although it’s certainly a challenging time, along with the loss of a certain amount of local authority funding, there are plans in place. Things are being done.”

Team spirit

He says regional networks for regimental museums cover almost all of the UK and encourage “active participation in project work that will allow the museums to become more sustainable”.

Such teamwork may, according to Farrance, be considered more favourably by funding bodies.

“We run free advisory services for regimental museums, and they can contact us at any time,” he says.

Farrance adds that the NAM runs training programmes for regimental museums, having canvassed them for their needs. It was announced in the chancellor’s 2016 Autumn Statement that the Army Museums Ogilby Trust, a national organisation that represents regiments and corps museums, would receive £5m of government money accrued from banking fines.

The trust’s director, Andrew Lloyd, says: “If museums are in difficulties, it’s because they haven’t used [the period since funding changes were announced] to make themselves sustainable. We’re engaged with a number of projects around the country to do with encouraging collaboration and sustainability and networking together, so museums can support each other. We’ve just had to make a decision, as a sector, that the story we have to tell is important.”

By way of example, Lloyd says regimental museums in London are working on a network project to create a post for a joint conservation officer.

Creative thinking

Rachel Silverson, the curator at Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier, says: “I think the climate is changing and we have to make a move to becoming more inventive and entrepreneurial about how we generate income.

“It’s not about the type of organisation being able to be more effective. It’s about all of us addressing what we need to put in place to get to where we want to be. Military and regimental museums were set up to reflect the interests of those people who served in those regiments. Unless we diversify our audience, we’re in danger of becoming irrelevant.

“Our collections are global in nature and we’ve got a lot of fascinating stories to tell, but we have to look beyond the military narrative.”