Closures hit museums across UK - Museums Association

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Closures hit museums across UK

Thirty museums and heritage sites have shut in past two years
Patrick Steel
Research by Museums Journal has found that 42 museums, galleries and heritage sites have shut over the past decade, most of them in the past two years.

The closures are spread across the UK, but England has been hardest hit, with a cluster of eight closures in Greater London reflecting the concentration of museums in the area.

The research shows that small local authority museums are most vulnerable, with funding cuts the overriding reason for the closures. But it also reveals that larger organisations are not immune to the funding cuts, with sites closed at National Museums Liverpool, the British Museum and the British Film Institute.

The findings tally with a recent report published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which showed net current expenditure on culture by local authorities dropped £256m in the last financial year – a 7.8% fall.

Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association, said: “It seems that the pace of closures is quickening and I worry that increasing numbers of museums, and small local authority museums in particular, will find it harder to survive in the current financial climate as cuts hit. Sadly, I don’t see the situation improving any time soon.”

The most recent closures are Clarke Hall in Wakefield, which is being sold by the council, and Lackham Museum of Agricultural and Rural Life in Wiltshire, both of which welcomed their final visitors in September.

Other museums under threat include the National Museum of Costume in Dumfries, part of National Museums Scotland, which may close following an internal review

The review is also looking at reducing staff numbers, implementing efficiency savings and boosting earned income, as well as attracting donations and sponsorship across the whole of National Museums Scotland.

Copeland Borough Council is to vote in February next year on a proposal to make savings of £325,000 by closing the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven, which has 15 employees.

Meanwhile, four staff at Harborough Museum in Leicestershire may be made redundant if proposals to refurbish the building that houses the museum go ahead.

Harborough District Council was due to vote on the proposals as Museums Journal went to press. Middlesbrough Council is expected to close the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum from this month until March, for the second year in a row.

The John Kirby Museum of Scouting in Oxford will find out next month whether it will survive, after its landlord, the Scout Association, issued notice that it must vacate its current home by October 2013.

Are any museums in your area under threat? Let us know below.

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