RAMM won the 2012 Art Fund Prize

Threat of redundancies at RAMM

Gary Noakes, 23.01.2015
Council looking to save £4m in three years
Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) faces the loss of a number of staff, as the city council seeks to save £4m over the next three years.

The museum, which underwent a £24m redevelopment in 2011 and subsequently won the Art Fund Prize in 2012, is thought to be poised to make at least one curator post redundant and force some staff to re-apply for their own positions in response to a funding cut from Exeter City Council.

The local authority pays for almost 32 of the 43.5 full-time equivalent roles. The remainder comes from Arts Council England's Major Partner Museums funding.

Camilla Hampshire, the museums manager at RAMM, was unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman for the museum said that the employee count included six curatorial roles, not all full-time.

An Exeter City Council spokesman said the council had to make savings to meet its reduced funding. “We are not going into specifics at the moment,” he added.

Negotiations have come to a halt while the council redrafts its redundancy procedures after conceding that some terms were unfair.

The council added: “Given this situation, it would be inappropriate to comment on any changes, paused, planned or rumoured.”

The news comes as Norfolk Museums Service consults on the possible loss of 10 posts this year following a similar funding crisis.


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MA Member
18.02.2015, 16:29
Could not agree more with what Malcolm and Anonymous have both said. As someone who is both AMA and CIfA it does feel that CIfA now has a stronger voice. Whatever the lobbying been done by the MA is achieving it is hard to see it on the ground where the cuts to Museum services shows no sign of slowing down and the flood to Trust status simply because it is a short-term answer to a funding crisis is not being abated. David Fleming rightly cautions against being defeatist but equally we need open honesty from politicians and managers about what is realistic, sustainable level of funding and what can be achieved with that. Politicians are too fond of dressing any cut as some kind of benefit to lazy staff which will miraculously enable them to do more with next-to-nothing. There is areal world out there and that scenario does not fit it.
Malcolm J Watkins
MA Member
Director, Heritage Matters
27.01.2015, 12:30
I tend to agree with the first correspondent. Unlkike him/her have nobody to muzzle me, not that that was ever much of a deterrent.
The museums world when I entered (before many were born I expect) was one in which we were still fighting to get out from under the yoke of librarians. Frying pans and fires come to mind. We succeeded frequently, but then soon found ourselves subsumed by such understanding and like-minded services such as Sports & Leisure, or Planning. Museums always seem to be the poor relations in the world of local services. And no I emphatically do not see trusts as the solution - it simply opens the door for funders to cut at arm's length.
It is time for a serious campaign through the media. I agree that funding for 'blockbuster' exhibitions is unlikely - I recall that we were putting on a major exhibition for which the highest individual gift was 250 ukp - it was 1983, but even so, for a quincentenary exhibition linked to the anniversary of the city's Letters Patent, it was pathetic. The exhibition we mounted was nevertheless described in a national newspaper as better than one on Richard III previously mounted in a national institution. The money is not out there for most provincial museums, unless perhaps you include the North of England.
I was a member of the Board of Directors when the MA appointed its first Director - to replace a single member of staff who was the Company Secretary. I don't know if as an organisation we are achieving any better than we did then.
Part of the MA problem has always been running with the hare and hunting with the hounds - the combination of corporate and professional members in the same body. It could be part of the solution as well, but too few local authorities now have members as active as they once were in our world. Staff are in a poosition to influence their local councillors or trustees to get more involved. I recall some truly formidable supporters, including Roy Hattersley's wonderful mother.
It is interesting that probably 2 decades after the MA decided against seeking Charter status, the IFA have achieved it. It provides a serious statement of intent about protecting the profession, I suggest.
Unless some serious wok is done, and very soon, we will be a remembered service. I always felt that everyone thought they could run a museum, but it ain't that simple. Today, so much of what museums should be about is subsumed by what short-term politics dictates. I used to have a rule of thumb. It is worth considering. When all of your roles as a curator, when all of the activities, responsibilities, purposes of a museum are pared away except one, what is that one?
I think it is the protection of the collection. I doubt if more than a handful of readers will agree, instead suggesting such things as 'making the collection available' or 'serving the public'. A good friend used to argue for 'caring for the collection and making it publicly available' and I simply could not get the message across that this was still two things...
Until we as a profession can get back to our core purpose and be proud to defend that purpose, I suggest that cuts will continue to come, because most of the public and most of our bosses (not mine, thank goodness, now) think the displays are what constitutes a museum (or gallery) and that if it isn't on display it has no real value.
Dare I say 'I blame the MBA generation'?
MA Member
25.01.2015, 02:35
I have to be anonymous as my boss is big in the MA, but get political Museums Association. say something to the government about funding museums and galleries properly, get them to help local authorities who struggle to keep cultural venues going alongside statutory duties such as libraries and age provision. Forget blockbuster exhibitions, philanthropism will not work outside the South-east and will not fund ordinary galleries that most people visit. Prove to us members that you are doing something or many of us will conclude you are not worth being a part of. The MA was set up to support and lobby for museums, not be a gravy train for people who can't cope with real museum work!
Sharon Heal
MA Member
Director, Museums Association
27.01.2015, 11:02
Hi - just to reassure you we are having these conversations with government and funders all the time.

In the past week I have met government ministers in England, the MA has convened a Collections at Risk summit and I gave evidence at the Welsh Government review of museum funding.

On each occasion the MA talked about the impact of cuts and the huge value that museums deliver to communities. I agree that the MA needs to be making the case for museums and we are striving to do this.

Joining the MA and getting involved in the debates and discussion about the future funding of the sector is a great way of helping us do this!
Malcolm J Watkins
MA Member
Director, Heritage Matters
27.01.2015, 12:43
All that you say was happening in its own way decades ago in the political and power world of the time. What you really need to do is show how your meetings and arguments have made any sort of difference.
We saw the Area Museums Councils (originally mutually-supportive regional bodies) taken over at national level and that had a huge and I would argue positive impact. Then that quango (the Museums and Galleries Commission) was disbanded and its role is now buried deep in the Arts Council or whatever the name may be currently. The fish once swimming in a pool based entirely on the needs and functions of museums and galleries is now lost in the ocean of music, drama, active arts, etc. The residual services have now devolved back to local level through the local federations (certainly locally) so we have almost gone full circle.
But my key point for you is that you need to show the outcomes. What have the meetings, lobbying, etc actually achieved in positive changes?
Oh no! Did I just use the term 'outcome'?
David Fleming
MA Member
Director, National Museums Liverpool
28.01.2015, 09:37
I have also been around a long time, and I have always regretted the demise of the AMCs and (it rather surprises me to realise) of the MGC. These bodies did sterling work in advocating museums, especially to politicians, at both local and national level. However, these bodies were abolished years ago, and now the sector is reliant on other bodies to do the advocacy; first among these is the MA, whose importance as the independent voice of all types of museum has never been greater. ACE tells us that it is in constant dialogue with local authorities, and I really hope that's so.

What "outcomes" are you hoping for? A reversal in Government spending policy, which is at the root of the sector's funding problems? As Sharon Heal says, there are constant discussions between the MA and decision-makers behind the scenes. If you really want to help the sector then you should continue to encourage the MA to keep lobbying (many MA members have cited this as what they want the MA to do on their behalf) but complaining that there appears to be little impact seems to be rather defeatist: the MA, and especially Sharon Heal and President David Anderson, are doing plenty, and the stronger the membership is in favour of lobbying, then the more impactful that lobbying is likely to be.