NMDC closes partnership body

Sharon Heal, Issue 109/2, p6, February 2009
National Museums Directors' Conference winds down UK Affairs Committee
The committee responsible for national programmes and regional partnerships at the National Museum Directors' Conference (NMDC) has been wound down.

An NMDC spokeswoman said that many areas of the UK Affairs Committee's work were already covered, and that the NMDC was looking at a new programme of work around regional partnerships linked to the national museums strategy.

She said the change in NMDC membership to include the heads of museum services such as Birmingham and Glasgow had contributed to the decision to close the committee down.

But David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, said he had resigned as the committee's chairman because secretarial support for its work had been withdrawn. "It's unfortunate because it could look like the national museums might be losing interest - and I hope that's not true," he said.

Sally Cross, the collections coordinator at the Museums Association, said that regional partnerships had been a beneficial area of work from the NMDC. "Despite the closure of the committee, I hope the NMDC find ways to continue their work on partnerships between national and regional museums."

The move comes at a time when culture secretary Andy Burnham has placed more emphasis on culture in the regions. Several national museums are currently rethinking their regional partnerships.

The National Gallery's seven-year partnership with Bristol City Museums and Art Galleries and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle ended last year.

A National Gallery spokeswoman said: "We are beginning to develop a new national strategy that will provide successors to projects completed last year as well as a sustainable way for the gallery to continue to foster partnerships and allow for its collections to be seen as a national resource."

Museums Sheffield is currently renegotiating its partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). There has been some unease about Sheffield's decision to charge for its latest partnership exhibition, Treasures from the V&A, at the Millennium Gallery.

Museums Sheffield director of finance and resources Mark Hilton defended the £6 admission on the grounds of the cost of the redisplay and the addition of three major new sections curated by Museums Sheffield.

A spokeswoman for the V&A said: "Sheffield has always charged. The great thing is that it gives many people in and around Sheffield a chance to see highlights from the collection without the high cost of travelling to London."