Collecting report criticises Mendoza Review

Why Collect? calls for greater investment in museums
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Simon Stephens
A new report into collecting is sharply critical of the recent Mendoza Review of museums in England, which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) published last year.

Why Collect?, published on 15 February and commissioned by charities the Art Fund and the Wolfson Foundation, was written by historian David Cannadine.

In the report, which calls for increased investment in museums and their collections, Cannadine highlights a 13% fall in public spending on museums and galleries in England from 2007 to 2017, the imbalance of funding for museums inside and outside London, the poor salaries in the sector and the pressures faced by the Heritage Lottery Fund because of declining National Lottery income.

"The Mendoza Review may not accept that this deeply depressing picture amounts to a full-blown crisis in our museums and galleries, but it scarcely describes a flourishing sector, for there are clearly problems aplenty which need addressing," Cannadine writes.

"Yet the only solution to these problems and challenges that the Mendoza Review comes up with is the proposal to 'use existing funding in the best way possible', and to distribute it 'in a more joined up and strategic fashion', thereby creating 'an environment that enables England's museums to do their best work'.

"But how can they be expected or feel encouraged to do 'their best work' when funding across the sector, by both central and local government, is insufficient and has been diminishing in real terms for the best part of a decade, and when staff morale in many museums and galleries is as understandably low as it currently is as a result?"

He continues: "Commissioning yet more DCMS reports, announcing additional policy initiatives, and constantly tinkering with so-called 'delivery bodies' are no substitutes for the increased government support for our museums and galleries that is belatedly required and urgently needed, and that other countries undoubtedly provide."

"Instead of passively acquiescing in a state of affairs that has in truth existed for far too long, the review could have reiterated the case that additional funding ought to be given to museums and galleries as a matter of immediate urgency and high priority."

Why Collect? features 11 case studies that explore the social and cultural impact of collecting. The report found that the impact of new acquisitions of works of art and objects was found to be transformative both for museums and the people visiting them.
Manchester Museum; Glasgow Museums; Ferens Art Gallery, Hull: Ulster Museum, Belfast; and the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne and among the case studies.

Penny Bull, the senior programmes manager at the Art Fund, will discuss the report at the forthcoming MP seminar The Future of Museums: Collections on 20 March at the Wellcome Collection in London


Why Collect? report

Programme and booking information for The Future of Museums: Collections seminar

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