Directors in conversation

Simon Stephens, 06.11.2015
National museum directors discuss free entry, leadership and partnership working
Leadership, admission charges and working in partnership were among the many issues addressed today by four museum directors in a session that kicked off the second day of the Museums Association Annual Conference in Birmingham.

The directors at the In Conversation session were Martin Roth, director, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London; Diane Lees, director general, Imperial War Museums; David Fleming, director, National Museums Liverpool; and Duncan Dornan, head of museums and collections at Glasgow Life.

Sharon Heal, the director of the Museums Association and chair of the session, asked the panel for one thing that they would change about museums.

Roth called for the sector to stop complaining and move forward; Fleming called for more international work, Dornan said museums should become less hierarchical; while Lees said museums should look to change themselves in terms of their structures and attitudes.

The directors were also asked about whether museums should charge for entry. They all agreed these is no one-size-fits all model for charging and museums should look to their own particular circumstances.

“I like museums to be free because more people can access them,” Fleming said. “But I do think it is horses for courses and it is different everywhere.”

Roth said he would oppose charges at the V&A as it had an educational role and that should be available for everyone.

Lees said IWM had a mixed-model in terms of charging for entry and that worked for her organisation.

The directors were also asked whether there were too many national museums. They all agreed that it was difficult to judge this without some kind of national strategy or plan for museums to base decisions on. But they did say national museums could work more closely together to share expertise, knowledge and resources.


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Jonathan Gammond
MA Member
Access & Interpretation Officer, Wrexham County Borough Museum
10.11.2015, 01:03
The national museums should continue to focus on sharing their expertise, knowledge and resources with the rest of the UK, please. rather than each other!!! it is good for us and our audiences and it is good for you too. Far better than a nationals love in down in London or in Edinburgh

As for too many national museums, there aren't any national museums in most parts of the country. Meanwhile, most of them are great brands that you meddle with at your peril. A merged national super museum could easily become a British Leyland for the 21st century.