Saving the museum

Simon Stephens, 05.11.2015
How to fight your corner in the face of funding cuts
Museums revealed strategies for dealing with proposed funding cuts and closures at the Museums Association Conference in Birmingham today.

In the Radical Futures: Saving the Museum session, Rachel Cockett, the director of development at Birmingham Museums Trust, discussed how her organisation reacted to a proposal by Birmingham City Council to cut the trust's budget by £850,000. In response, Birmingham Museums launched the #SaveBhamMuseums campaign, which encouraged the public and other stakeholders to pledge their support for the city's museums.

“There was a risk in that we needed to keep the right tone, we needed to be positive,” Cockett said. “We emphasised that the campaign was for Birmingham Museums, not against the city council. What we demonstrated very clearly was that we had the public's support and that is what the council needed to see.”

As a result of the campaign, the city council agreed to spread the £850,000 cut over two years, which has given Birmingham Museums Trust more time to prepare for the reduction in funding.

Delegates also heard from Lorna Lee, the head of cultural and community services at the London Borough of Waltham Forest, who discussed how the William Morris Gallery has been turned from an unloved venue under threat of closure, to a museum that has undergone a £3.7m redevelopment and won the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year in 2013.

Lee said the successful campaign to turn the gallery around combined encouraging the public to back the redevelopment plans and working behind the scenes to get the council to support the project.

The other speaker was Daniel Lockett, the visitor facilities manager at Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, who discussed how the museum dealt with a council decision to remove all museum staff and replace them with one part-time replacement.

A campaign by the Friends of the museum to oppose the cuts did not get the council to reverse the decision, although it did secure some funding from other sources, notably from the government's Libor fund.