A meteor is on its way—but museums appear to be oblivious

Gareth Harris, 06.11.2015
Peter Latchford puts forward radical solutions for survival and resilience
Museums are not doing enough to exploit their “social capital”—or their ability to improve cohesion within communities—said Peter Latchford, chief executive of Black Radley Culture consultancy, at the resilience to prosperity session at the Museums Association conference.

“The sector is not being brave and saying what is can do in relation to society as a whole,” he told delegates, likening the current funding and morale crisis to a meteor hitting the earth.

Latchford shared the findings of the recent digital research project Insight, which was launched last year by Black Radley Culture in collaboration with researchers from Bath Spa University’s Centre for Creative Computing. Ninety-five museums provided data, giving insights into the commercial operations and resilience strategies of a range of institutions.

“What we see in the sector is a tight control over activity,” said Latchford, likening management styles to Soviet-bloc style regimes. Museum management should be less dictatorial in its approach, said Latchford. “Key leadership roles create a sense of shared meaning,” he said.

“Size matters… and visitors are attracted to venues with a clear market position. Why do people come? They come for a cup of tea and slice of cake, and then see the collections,” Latchford added. His call for “clarity of purpose” from all museums prompted a number of contributions from the floor, as delegates debated whether their institutions are indeed fit for purpose.

Another hot topic was accreditation and why this may need to be revised. “Why do we persist that there should be a single standard for museums?” said another speaker, Alison Hems, course director in heritage management at Bath Spa university.

The session ended when Iain Watson, the director of Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums asked where change should come from in organisations, the top-down or organically throughout? “The most effective leaders must come together to deliver new models of joint delivery,” concluded Latchford.


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MA Member
11.11.2015, 23:50
Would appears that ineptitude of a generation of leaders in public services extends to the prime minister himself. In his letter to Oxfordshire County Council,David Cameron demonstrates that he is oblivious to consequences the government's decision making has on museums

MA Member
07.11.2015, 01:06
I don't recognize a dictatorial style of management from amongst leadership within the local authority I work for. At least not at service level. However as a discretionary service we are at the forefront of yet more 'difficult decisions'; the need for immediate 'fiscal restraint' that is befalling the UK as a result of a global financial crisis which began with a 'credit crunch' nearly a decade ago. I understand this was brought about by reckless/corrupt lending that drove wildly inaccurate real estate surveying. There is a level of inertia and ineptitude amongst a poorly trained and under qualified generation of UK public sector management. They don't seem to know how to deal with the demands that are placed upon them in return for their salary, decent car, holiday and tastefully furnished house. They seem to be looking for quick wins and soft belly options in order to buy time, And so entire suites of discretionary services are put forward for further rationalization, regardless of their current success, They seem oblivious to the fact that the tiny budgets being spent on luxuries like having a park to play in; a library to learn from and a museum to marvel at, still don't actually have any bearing on the financial shortfalls being engineered, and which confront them. As such, our government's austerity agenda will either have to be shelved or require some radical changes amongst the personnel charged with delivering it. Poor case scenario is the status quo is subsequently maintained after the very hard to repair damage has been done. All I personally feel like doing is to keep calm and carry on delivering upon and communicating about the museum's social capital, which is derived from its material culture and human resource,