The council dropped a £2.5m HLF bid to restore Bromley Museum last year

Council proposes to close Bromley Museum

Geraldine Kendall, 02.02.2015
Peterborough Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery also facing cuts
Bromley Council in London is proposing to close Bromley Museum and sell Orpington Priory, the 700-year-old building that houses its displays.

Under the Conservative-run council’s proposal, the museum’s two permanent staff would be made redundant and two unstaffed galleries would be created at Bromley Central Library to display part of the borough’s collections. The council is also proposing to discontinue the museum’s education services.

The move to the library will cost nearly £400,000 in capital investment upfront, which the council said would be funded by the sale of the Grade II* listed building. The council plans to cease almost all revenue funding for the museum by 2017-18.

A council spokeswoman said the rest of the collection would continue to be held at the council’s existing store facilities, though she confirmed that some objects may be disposed of.

“There are objects in the collection that are not relevant to Bromley’s local history,” she said. The spokeswoman said the council would follow the Museums Association's Disposal Toolkit when rationalising the collection.

The Bromley Heritage and Arts Forum, an alliance of historic societies, community groups and heritage bodies in the borough, met with the council last week to discuss alternative solutions.

Phil Waller, the chairman of the forum, said he believed the move was inevitable after the council dropped a £2.5m Heritage Lottery Fund bid last year to restore Orpington Priory, which is in need of major repair.

“It is a hard pill to swallow but I think this is going to go ahead,” said Waller. “The council has to save money and the museum is not something they have to provide.”

Waller said the Bromley Heritage and Arts Forum was keen to work with the council on its plans, saying the “worst-case scenario” would be if councillors pulled the plug on the planned capital investment as well.

“We can see that the writing is on the wall but we would like to be part of that decision-making,” he said.

However, he warned that caring for and maintaining the collections without specialist staff would place “extreme pressure” on other local groups, and added that the service may lose its Accreditation as the proposed library display "is not a museum".

A final decision on the museum’s future is due in mid-February.

Cuts are also having an impact at Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is proposing to make 19 members of its front-of-house staff redundant. The remaining gallery assistants will be asked to sign new contracts obliging them to take shifts on demand without claiming overtime pay.

The gallery’s assistants have launched a petition against the proposed job cuts. In a statement, they said: “We believe the proposed redundancies are unjustified and unfair, and that they will ultimately jeopardise and damage the relationship we have developed with our customers throughout the years.”

Meanwhile, Peterborough City Council is proposing to cut £1.45m from the budget of Vivacity, the independent trust set up to manage the city’s culture and leisure services.

The three-year cut would represent a 50% reduction in the trust’s funding, which has already fallen by more than £5m in the last five years.

Vivacity has warned that the cut would be “significant and far reaching”. According to the trust, the council’s proposals could mean the cancellation of the city’s two arts and heritage festivals, and may curtail Peterborough Museum’s events for children and put the museum’s planned partnership with the Natural History Museum into doubt.

The council is running a public consultation on its budget proposals and will announce a final decision in early March.

Are there any more examples of museum cuts that you’d like us to highlight? Email journal@museumsassociation.org in confidence or tweet us under the hashtag #museumcuts.

Update
03.02.2015

Updated to confirm that Bromley Council plans to follow the Museums Association's guidelines for disposing of objects.


Comments

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Luanne Meehitiya
MA Member
Natural Sciences Curator, Birmingham Museums Trust
02.02.2015, 14:59
I am dismayed to hear this. Bromley Museum is an inspiring museum, Orpington Priory is a beautiful historic building, with an extremely hard working team. It is a community hub in a borough with much need of it


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