Concern over report that classes museums as a 'pro-rich' service - Museums Association

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Concern over report that classes museums as a ‘pro-rich’ service

Sector bodies say classification does not reflect scope of museum work
Museum bodies have expressed concern over a report on the social impact of the 2016-17 local government budget that describes museums as a “pro-rich” service, warning the classification is reductive and could lead to the sector being targeted for disproportionate cuts.

Commissioned by the Scottish parliament, the report analyses how cuts are distributed between various types of local government services, classified in six categories ranging from “pro-rich” to “very pro-poor”.

Museums, galleries and heritage services are placed in the former category, with services like social care and citizens advice falling under the latter.

The findings show that cuts are disproportionately hitting poor communities, with 69% falling on services that range between “neutral-poor” and “very pro-poor”.

But the report has attracted criticism from museum professionals, who believe its categorisation system is problematic and perpetuates the idea that museums “are not for the less well off”.

The Museums Association’s (MA) policy officer Alistair Brown said the term "pro-rich" is reductive and “fails to reflect the huge amount that museums do to increase access and to work in partnership with communities of all types".

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) has also expressed concern about the report. MGS’s head of research and development, Alison Turnbull, said: “Museums and galleries are identified as being ‘pro-rich’ services when the reality is that museums play an important role in tackling inequalities. The toolkit has not taken the large socio-economic profile that museums attract into account.

“The terminology is unhelpful particularly in the current economic content when classifying museums in this way could result in disproportionate cuts to museums and galleries. We urge the authors to revisit the toolkit, and Museums Galleries Scotland can provide constructive input to enable the creation of a more representative resource before it is rolled out any further.”

Turnbull said she had contacted other sector bodies in the museum, gallery and heritage sector to urge them to make their views known to the Scottish parliament.

The MA’s director Sharon Heal said: “It is well established that cuts and austerity measures have had a disproportionate impact on poor communities and whilst we recognise that local authorities are under increasing pressure to find extra savings, the MA is firmly against targeting museums and galleries for cuts.

“Museums and galleries in Scotland have led the way in increasing access and working with their communities and have demonstrated that they can promote health and wellbeing and create better places for us to live and work. All communities, rich and poor, have a right to access to culture and museums are fabulous places for us all to explore our shared heritage, identity and future.”

Do you agree with the classifications used in the report commissioned by the Scottish parliament? Vote in our poll and have your say.

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