Kendal Museum

Kendal curator posts under threat

Rebecca Atkinson, 06.11.2012
Move criticised by union as "short sighted"
Kendal College has proposed making two specialist curatorial roles redundant at Kendal Museum – a move criticised by Unison as "short sighted".

The college took over the management on the museum from South Lakeland District Council in 2009 to prevent it from closing. It says it wants Kendal Museum to become self-sustaining within seven years and increase opening times to five days per week – something that “can only be achieved with a review of staffing”.

Two part-time posts are at risk of redundancy under the proposals – a curator with special responsibility for the archaeology and social history collections, and the natural history curator.  A new part-time post of curator/manager will be created.

A spokesman for Kendal College said the new role “will consolidate the responsibilities necessary for the museum to continue its progress towards sustainability and to provide a better and more educational visitor experience”.

A statement added: “Kendal College recognises that no curator can be a specialist across all fields and it will therefore continue to bring in specialists to support the different collections in the museum.

"The reputation of Kendal Museum will not be eroded through any potential changes to staffing as the college is committed to enhancing the educational offer and the visitor experience.”

Kendal College launched a diploma in curatorial skills course in September, which includes experience working with Kendal Museum and others in the North West. 

The college said it plans to continue to offer the course, despite the proposed restructure.

Unison, the public services union, said the proposal was short-sighted. It argues that a six-year grant from South Lakeland District Council covers staffing costs.  

Dave Armstrong, Unison regional organiser, said: “There is no financial need to make this redundancy. The college benefits from the two curators’ different specialisms, which complement the service provided to the public and enhances its own curator diploma course.

"This will have a detrimental effect on the excellent service provided by the museum to both local people and the many tourists who visit Kendal.”

South Lakeland District Council will meet later this week to decide whether to support the college’s proposals.

Correction

This article originally stated that the two threatened roles were full-time. 

Comments

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Anonymous
14.11.2012, 16:34
I am very sad to hear about the prospect of redundancies at Kendal Museum. And as Peter says its seems particularly ironic that the college is training up the curators for the future while axing the existing ones. Kendal is a great museum and ‘old-fashioned’ in all the right ways. It is very near Kendal station and should benefit from the tourism in the area – there are not many indoor weather-proof activities which are free in and around the Lakes.I don’t know what their financial plan is? Or how they envisage becoming self-sustaining within 7 years? I always feel that they are the (very) poor relation to the other Kendal museums which are run/owned by the Lakeland Arts Trust. I don’t know what the answer is, but cutting posts isn’t going to help the situation.
Meriel Stokoe
MA Member
08.11.2012, 16:19
It is ironic that at the same time as this article was posted, another article talks about the lack of curatorial care for natural history collections.! As former Assistant Keeper at Kendal in the 90s, I have first hand experience of working with its amazing natural history and archaeology collections, and the joy that they brought to the local community and tourists alike!
07.11.2012, 17:57
Seems ironic that Kendal College is offering a course in curatorial skills at the same time as making curators redundant. Perhaps the need for curators is recognised, just not the need to pay them. Trainees be warned!
Jenny Cousins
MA Member
Project Leader, American Air Museum, Imperial War Museum
07.11.2012, 14:25
I've read the news in the Museums Journal about Kendal Museum over the last few years with an increasing sense of depression. It's a great museum with an unusual collection of taxidermy and a lot of potential to be enhanced into a stunning visitor attraction, with the right commitment behind it. Kendal Museum is one of the main reasons I ended up in the museum sector - I joined its kids' club as a 10-year-old and learnt about the ecology of the Lake District from Saturday morning sessions with Carol the natural history curator. Please let me know if there is somewhere I can direct a letter to lend support to stop the further erosion of what is a really important community resource.