The amount of money available for museum development providers is to fall under an Arts Council England (ACE) shake-up of the way the programme is delivered.
The arts council has ringfenced annual funding of £3,202,869 for the museum development programme since 2020-21. For 2024-26, £3,002,869 will be available each year, a 6.24% decrease.
ACE said that although the amount of grant money is falling, it will invest £350,000 in central roles to develop and deliver the programme (an increase of £200,000, as £150,000 is currently allocated centrally).
This brings total investment in museum development to £3,352,869 per year for 2024-26, which is a standstill budget.
The central roles at ACE will help with coordination and national communication, as well as with programme development and data insights.
Under the new arrangements, the nine regional museum development programmes will change to five. This reflects ACE's current regional structure, with the five areas being London, Midlands, North, South-East and South-West.
Of these five areas, South-East England will receive up to £853,171, the largest of any area. The North will get £702,846 a year, while the South-West will be eligible for £638,412. The Midlands will receive up to £571,420 and London will receive £237,020.
In a blog on ACE’s website, Emmie Kell, the organisation’s director, museums and cultural property, wrote: “The refreshed 2024-26 programme will emphasise the current strengths of the programme, while increasing connections between museums across the country so we all benefit and learn from each other.
"We know from our relationships and data insights, that many museums face similar issues, so there is real value in working nationally. But local knowledge, understanding of context and relationships by museum development colleagues, are vital too."
ACE said the new funding arrangements should be viewed in the wider context of its investment, with 48% of its National Portfolio investment in museums going to museums in the North. Also, the South-West and South-East have higher numbers of small independent museums, with many of these being volunteer-led and in rural settings. ACE said it has adjusted the Museum Development funding accordingly.
The new arrangements also reflect the arts council’s Let’s Create strategy, with the four Investment Principles within the strategy providing a strong framework for development.
The arts council said that the key aspects of the museum development programme will continue, including small grants, workforce training, data insights and networking.
Each of the five area programmes will delivered by one organisation or a consortium of partners. Applications to deliver the area programmes open in 9 May and close on 4 July.
Further analysis of museum development programmes across the UK will be published in a future edition of Museums Journal