Darren Henley on the challenges facing civic museums

ACE chief executive talks about the importance of relationships with partners and audiences
Nicola Sullivan
Darren Henley, the chief executive of Arts Council England, said local authorities either see their museums as assets or make short-term decisions that are “outside the spirit of partnership”.
Addressing delegates during the final keynote, which brought the Museums Association’s annual conference and exhibition in Birmingham to a close, Henley said that civic museums are “crucial local assets” and to lose them would leave  “a void at the heart of culture.”

He acknowledged the challenges associated with the changing economic model and reductions in public funding, but said ACE’s recent report on local authority museums showed how hard many were working to bring about change.
During his speech he also said that civic collections in the midlands and the north of England had been the “hardest hit” by reductions in funding, adding that historically the majority of philanthropic support went to institutions in London.
“We must all make resources work harder and be more focused on our relationships with partners and audiences,” he said.
He said that the arts council had taken a number of measures to help the sector, including providing more support for networks, simplifying the Accreditation process, looking at ways to help museums generate new sources of income and working with Major Partner Museums on issues such as workforce diversity.

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