Derby Silk Mill, one of the sites overseen by Derby Museums

Petition against Derby cuts raises more than 6,600 signatures

Geraldine Kendall, 14.01.2015
Shropshire's Museum Resource Centre also at risk due to cuts
Significant cuts to local government grants are continuing to hit local authority-funded museums across the UK.

Derby Museums, which is facing a proposed cut of 26% to its £1.2m council grant in 2015-16, handed in a petition of 6,649 signatures opposing the cut to the council yesterday.

The petition is sufficient to trigger a council debate on the proposal, which is expected to take place at the end of January. The trust’s director Tony Butler said he hoped the public’s support would be taken into account.

“We appreciate the difficult circumstances that the council is operating under but it’s gratifying to see the public support and their showing their love for their local museums,” said Butler.

The trust has staged a high-profile campaign since the proposed cut was announced last month to encourage museum-goers to show their support for the city’s museums, recording the results on its Tumblr account.

Meanwhile the Museum Resource Centre in Ludlow, Shropshire, is under threat after Shropshire Council announced plans to make the centre’s three permanent staff redundant and replace them with one part-time post.

The Friends of Ludlow Museum has released a statement warning that the centre would not be able to function without staffing by “professional and appropriately qualified personnel”, and that the move would effectively force it to close to the public and mothball the 150,000 objects it holds.

The centre provides storage and loan facilities for the county’s collections, and currently attracts between 10,000 and 20,000 visitors a year.

“Shropshire Council has made no attempt to protect the money for these three posts and sees redundancy with effective closure as the easy option,” said Lottie James, chairwoman of the Friends group.

In Scotland, the Highland Council has voted to go ahead with a 5% cut to its grants for culture in 2015-16, followed by a 45% cut in 2016-17.

The third-party grants support 19 independent museums across the Highlands, and the Highland Museums Forum has warned that some may be at risk of closure as a result.

In Wales, the Friends of Newport Museum and Art Gallery will submit a petition of more than 2,000 signatures to the city council this week opposing a plan that would see the museum’s city centre building close with the loss of 13 full-time posts.

Public access to the museum's collections would be limited to pop-ups and temporary exhibitions under the council's proposal. The local authority needs to find £10m savings next year and says it is facing "severe financial pressure".

Finally, Birmingham City Council is due to decide next month on whether to go ahead with its proposed 15% cut to Birmingham Museums Trust. A petition opposing the cuts attracted more than 7,200 signatures and has been submitted to the council.

The Museums Association submitted a response this week to the council’s public consultation expressing concern over the cut.

Are there any more examples of museum cuts that you’d like us to highlight? Email in confidence or tweet us under the hashtag #museumcuts.


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Malcolm J Watkins
MA Member
Director, Heritage Matters
11.06.2015, 10:11
More than forty years ago there was no easy way into a museums career. I spent six months working unpaid in my local museum doing what would today be termed an internship.
There is little that is new in this world.
As this suggests, I am getting long in the tooth. This emans that peering at unnecessarily small text in a washed out font is difficult. Given the Association's concerns about accessibility, isn't it time that it made its own website more accessible but using easily-readable text?
Patrick Steel
MA Member
Website Editor, Museums Association
11.06.2015, 10:21
Hi Malcolm -

Thank you for your comment. We are currently in the early stages of redesigning the website and accessibility is one thing that we will be looking very closely at so that all of our users can access all of the great content across the site.

All best,
MA Member
17.01.2015, 13:02
Having a policy to weed out the most exploitative roles is a good start. But more needs to be done. The reality is that these unpaid roles - whether we call them internships, placements, work experience, or volunteering - are filled by young graduates trying to break into the museum profession. And museums are clearly targeting this group when they advertise on professional job sites.

I understand that museum budgets are tight and sometimes there simply isn't enough money to pay people for all the work that needs to be done. The solution isn't going to be easy. But if we want professionals, we have to find ways to pay them. Young people are paying £thousands for work-orientated graduate courses and most of those courses already include unpaid placements. It simply isn't right to force graduates into years of unpaid work experience/placements/internships/volunteer roles by legitimising unpaid entry-level roles as 'learning experiences'.

I was lucky enough to get a paying museum job while I was still studying (those were the days!) and had lots of satisfying learning experiences whilst being paid a fair wage for my work. I never had to go through the soul-destroying cycle of applying for and being turned down for paid positions while being welcomed into those roles as a volunteer. But this is par for the course for the new generation of professionals.

Sorry to be banging on about this, but the problem isn't going away if we don't keep talking about it.
MA Member
15.01.2015, 16:35
This isn't related to a current story but to an on-going one:

Today the website is headlining FIVE volunteer positions at the National Army Museum. (Name and shame - actually it's 14 positions, as there are "up to 10 'placements'" for one of the roles.)

Should museums be using professional job sites to advertise unpaid volunteer roles? If they are looking to build a professional staff, and these are museum roles that are suitable for professionals, surely museums should be paying anyone working in them? And if what they really want is a hard up graduate desperate to get some work experience (which use of the word 'placements' suggests), isn't this just a way to circumvent the legislation on unpaid internships? The bigger museums like the NAM should be leading the way on this, not setting so bad an example. Mind you, while even the British Museum continues to offer unpaid student internships rebranded as volunteer placements, there seems little hope for this.

Perhaps the MA could lead the way with a decision not to advertise any unpaid roles (volunteer or internship) on its jobs board? And prominently publish a statement on advertising unpaid roles, like the one on the ACE job site (

Someone fortunate enough to still be paid for her work
Emma Mitchinson
MA Member
Marketing & Sales Officer, Museums Association
16.01.2015, 15:01
Hi. Thank you for your comment. The MA already has a policy on this in place and we only advertise internships on our ‘find a job’ page that meet the criteria so that the intern has a satisfying learning experience. Our policy is very similar and linked to ACE’s guidelines – please see Where they meet our criteria, we take a positive view of internships and their value to the sector and to people wanting to gain relevant experience to help get them into employment. We also advertise voluntary roles that we think are suitable and provide development opportunities as it can be a great way to start or help develop someone’s career in museums, but we do avoid advertising roles that we think are exploitative.