Museums Association exposes depth of local authority funding cuts

Replacement of paid staff with volunteers on rise
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Rebecca Atkinson
Several local authority museum services appear to be replacing paid staff with volunteers, according to research carried out by the Museums Association (MA).

The MA’s confidential cuts survey asked respondents to compare the current situation within their museum with that of April 2010.

Early results reveal that 37% of the 63 local authority to have responded have increased the number of volunteers over the past year. Of those, 35% have cut paid staff by between a tenth and a quarter, and 22% by more than a quarter.

Maurice Davies, head of policy and communication at the MA, said: “It’s alarming that museums seem to be replacing experienced and skilled staff with volunteers. If they are, in fact, qualified museum professionals seeking paid work, then it also smacks of exploitation.”

One MA member wrote on the association’s website: “By recruiting more volunteers to fulfil essential tasks, museums reinforce the idea that they are a luxury pursuit rather than an essential community service. This gives policymakers an excuse to look first at the museums’ budget when cash runs out.”

The full survey results will be published on the MA website on 20 July.

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