Image (c) Imperial War Museum

Call for parliamentary scrutiny of proposed IWM library closure

Geraldine Kendall, 19.11.2014
Education centre in Duxford also under threat as IWM seeks £4m savings
The union Prospect is calling for parliamentary scrutiny of the proposal by Imperial War Museums (IWM) to close the library at its Lambeth site.

Prospect’s IWM negotiations officer Andy Bye, who set up a petition to prevent the closure earlier this month, said £4m government funding cuts were preventing the museum from carrying out its core activities.

Bye said: “Our next move will be to seek parliamentary scrutiny of the proposal because the cuts are stopping the museum from doing what it should be doing... the fundamental thing is that it is meant to give the public access to its resources."

Scrutiny of the government's funding decisions can have an impact; last year, a parliamentary inquiry into the Science Museums Group’s proposal to close one of its northern museums succeeded in obtaining a pledge from culture minister Ed Vaizey that all sites would be protected.

A spokeswoman for IWM said that the institution had been obliged to consider "difficult decisions" to ensure its ongoing sustainability.

Referring to the proposed library closure, she said: “All accessioned collection items, and some (non-accessioned) books, and ephemera will remain under the museum’s management and will continue to be accessible by appointment.

"A programme of digitisation of these core collections is also in train so that those across the UK and further afield who are not able to visit the museum sites in person can engage with IWM’s subject matter.”

The petition, which calls on the government to reverse IWM's funding cuts, has attracted more than 8,500 signatures in the past two weeks.

The library closure is part of a “change programme” currently under way at the institution, which oversees five sites across the UK.

Other proposals include the closure of the Explore History public space in Lambeth and the closure of the education centre and other learning services at IWM Duxford. IWM confirmed that it was not planning to close any branches.

Between 60 and 80 redundancies could be made across all sites, including 40 in Lambeth and 25 in Duxford.

Bye said: “We have been having regular meetings with IWM. It is clear that they do want to engage with staff to find an alternative that does not mean as many jobs are cut.”

The IWM spokeswoman said: “The internal consultation period for IWM’s change programme, including the proposals above, has now begun. We are working closely with those staff who may be affected by the change proposals and will continue to do so until the end of the year.”

IWM will announce its final decision on all proposed changes early next year.

Comments

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Elizabeth St Hill Davies
MA Member
Curator, St Neots Museum
23.11.2014, 19:57
I was stunned to hear that the IWM Duxford Education Dept. might be closing, they are an inspirational team and provide wonderful sessions for children, adults, everyone. If museums are encouraged to make their collections accessible to all how can they possibly suggest closing the education centre and learning services at Duxford which must be one of the best in the country.
Damian Gaster
MA Member
19.11.2014, 20:06
The biggest test of access is whether historians can make use of materials to present military history in breadth, depth and context. If current proposed cuts will affect adversely the ability of historians and strategists to teach our leaders to avoid the Gallipolis and Light Brigades of the future, they should be opposed with vigour. In addition, to the extent that public access is necessary in 2014 to maintain the fighting spirit of our island on the hundredth anniversary of the Great War, then it must be safeguarded. At the very least, the library facilities should not be irreversibly lost.
19.11.2014, 18:06
I can't see how the closure of the library will not impact on future access. It should not be closed.