NMDC opts to recruit museums from regions

ACE-funded museums to be allowed to become members from April
Patrick Steel
The National Museum Directors’ Conference (NMDC) has voted to expand its membership to include major grant-funded museums from April.

At a meeting in November, chaired by Natural History Museum director Mike Dixon and attended by 17 of the NMDC’s 25 members, the directors agreed to invite the Renaissance-funded museums to join them.

Arts Council England (ACE) will announce major grant awards on 27 January, with about 15-20 museums in England expected to receive funding. The NMDC will meet at the end of February to ratify its new membership and confirm its strategy and priorities.

Suzie Tucker, the NMDC’s head of strategy and delivery, said: “It is still to be confirmed whether new members will be at the same level [as existing members], how it will work and what the NMDC does. “I don’t think that what the NMDC does will change, but there will be a change in focus in the NMDC’s work.”

But some NMDC members are unhappy about the proposals. David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool (NML) and a board member of the Museums Association (MA), said: “I have always spoken against broadening the membership.

“The traditional strength of the NMDC has been to represent the voice of nationally funded museums. I think the inclusion of museums outside that will weaken the voice of the NMDC and confuse listeners.

“[This decision] has resulted from some muddled thinking and will not benefit the museum sector.”

It is rumoured that NML might resign from the NMDC membership as a result of the changes. Tim Knox, director of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, who was at the meeting, said: “We have to wait for the arts council to announce the results [of the major grant funding] and then the considerations can be taken.

“An attempt to enlarge membership is not going to work because it will become a different animal. It should just be national museums, not some kind of top table.”

Vanessa Trevelyan, president of the MA and head of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, which has applied for major grant funding, said: “From the MA’s point of view, it is disappointing that the NMDC’s top priority is not working with us to promote the interests of the sector.”

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