People’s History Museum fights for national status

Manchester venue has been "left in the cold", chairman tells House of Lords
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Rebecca Atkinson
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The People’s History Museum in Manchester has been given a one-off £100,000 grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) amid a growing row about the loss of its government funding.

In 2010, the department for culture announced it would relinquish responsibility for funding seven non-national museums – including the People’s History Museum – from April 2015. At the time, the DCMS said it would help the organisations find alternative sponsors and would not leave any of them “high and dry”.
 
But in an address given at the House of Lords this week, John Monks, the chairman of the trustees of the People’s History Museum, said the museum felt “left in the cold” and was set to lose funding of £155,000 a year – 15% of its turnover.
 
A spokesman for the department for culture said that a one-off grant of £100,000 would be given to the People’s History Museum, through Arts Council England (ACE), in 2015-2016.

“This money is there to support the museum while it finds a long-term solution for its future funding arrangements,” he said.
 
Monks welcomed the investment but said the issue of what happens after 2016 was unresolved: “The campaign to secure the proper recognition of the People’s History Museum as a national, not regional, museum goes on. We have breathing space, not the answer."
 
The People’s History Museum has been in talks with the British Museum, the British Library and the National Archives, but has been unable to find a partner prepared to make a financial commitment to it.
 
Of the other non-national museums losing direct support from the DCMS, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums transferred to Arts Council England and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester joined the Science Museum Group.  
 
The DCMS will continue to directly fund two other affected museums – the Geffrye Museum and the Horniman Museum and Gardens, both in London – who have not found alternative sponsors.

Katy Ashton, the director of the People’s History Museum, said: “The decision to strip our museum of its national status, while other museums based in London have managed to avoid being downgraded, could imply a regional bias.

"Does our Manchester home, a key historical battleground for the democratic movement in this country, mean our museum is not of national importance?  If so, this raises questions about the geographic imbalance of the nation’s cultural assets.”
 
The National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield will also continue to receive funding from the DCMS, although this money comes through the Science Museum Group rather than directly from the government.
 
The Design Museum in London will also lose its DCMS funding at the end of March. The museum, which will relocate to the former Commonwealth Institute building in 2016, was awarded ACE National Portfolio Status for the first time last year, which will give it £170,000 a year from April 2015 to 2018. The museum generates more than 95% of its running costs from admissions, membership, trading, donations and sponsors.



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