Abigail Morris is leaving Jewish Museum London after eight years as director

Jewish Museum London leaves arts council portfolio as director steps down

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 13.02.2020
Museum will receive tailored funding arrangement to review business model 
The Jewish Museum London has announced that it is withdrawing from the National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding programme. 

In a statement this week, the museum said it was leaving the Arts Council England scheme in order to develop “a new, sustainable business model without the funding requirements set out by the portfolio”. 

As an NPO, the institution is in line to receive £220,000 a year between 2018 and 2022. In a tailored agreement with the arts council, it will continue to receive the same level of investment, plus an additional £100,000 to “support planning for the museum’s future and the care and preservation of its nationally outstanding collection”. Further support will also come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

The museum’s withdrawal from the programme follows a decision by its director and chief executive officer, Abigail Morris, to step down after eight years in the role. A spokeswoman from the museum said: “It was agreed by all to install new leadership to manage the proposed new business model.”

Leaving the NPO contract will free the museum from meeting the requirements set out in its original funding application. 

“The NPO funding agreement is a kind of contract based on what the museum said it would do in its National Portfolio application,” the museum’s spokeswoman told Museums Journal. “Leaving the portfolio allows us to shift the focus onto what is needed for the organisation to survive and thrive for the future – making changes which secure the organisation for the long term.”

A spokeswoman for the arts council said: “There was a mutual recognition between the board and ourselves that Jewish Museum London was not going to be able to deliver the business plan that underpinned its current NPO funding agreement, as the museum’s business model has historically relied heavily on philanthropic giving, and in the current environment this has been harder to maintain. 

“We agreed with the board that leaving the National Portfolio will give Jewish Museum London the ability to undertake an options appraisal, reviewing its business model to determine the best route for the museum’s future.”

Although rare, the museum is not the first institution to leave the National Portfolio midway through its funding term yet receive continuing investment. English National Opera, Colchester’s Firstsite gallery and the Liverpool Everyman Theatre are among others that have been supported in the same way.

The arts council spokeswoman said: “Only in very exceptional circumstances will we support organisations outside the National Portfolio and this is assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

“We do this with organisations that we believe have particular local or national strategic significance and need close support from the arts council to help them turn their business model around.”

The chairman of the museum’s board, David Young, praised Morris’s achievements at the museum, saying: “Under Abigail’s stewardship, our museum has had many big successes. Her creative energy and infectious determination ensured we were able to punch well above our weight and gain a world-wide reputation for our thought-provoking exhibitions and educational programme.”

Morris said: “It has been a dream to head up the Jewish Museum and to work with so many talented and supportive people. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together over the last eight years.”


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13.02.2020, 21:05
Wow! 50% MORE funding for failing to meet your contractual obligations?! Where do we sign?