Facing the cuts

Simon Stephens, 10.10.2014
Changing lives while working with less public money
Continuing cuts in the public funding of museums are having a catastrophic impact on the sector, delegates to the Museums Association conference heard today. 

Alan Leighton, the national secretary for trades union Prospect, which represents museum and gallery staff, said that national museums were having to deal with 15% cuts for the past three years while the situation for some local authority funded museums was even worse. 

He said that this was leading to a loss of expertise because of widespread redundancies, fewer activities for the public and low pay for many who work in the sector.

“Low pay contributes to a lack of diversity among museum staff,” Leighton said. “The only people who can afford to work in museums and galleries are those with independent means.

“For me, there is a need for museums to build alliances with communities and trade unions to try to work together to make the positive case for museums,” Leighton said.

David Fleming, the director of National Museums Liverpool, said that cuts in funding to his organisation were contributing to falling visitor numbers as the service reduces what it offers visitors. NML is expected to attract 2.5 million visitors this year compared with a high of 3.2 million in 2012-13.

“There are a lot of things that we are not doing but what we are doing we are trying to do properly,” said Fleming, who told delegates that NML's innovative House of Memories dementia project would continue.

Fleming said solutions like raising more money from philanthropy were difficult in places such as Liverpool, which has high poverty levels.

It was not all doom and gloom, as delegates discussed ways of supporting positive social change in the face of drastic budget cuts.

Suggestions included partnership working, better advocacy and putting community engagement at the centre of everything a museum does.

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