Sector bodies say the term fails to recognise the museums do to tackle inequality, like the Scottish Maritime Museum's boat-building school, which helps unemployed people gain valuable skills

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

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 25.11.2016
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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Jonathan Gammond
Access , Wrexham County Borough Museum
28.12.2016, 23:44
Perhaps the mindset of the authors of the report takes into account that many local authority services are used by people for whom or when there is no other choice e.g social care, schools, children's social services,local roads, rubbish collection, whereas people choose (or not) to visit their local museums and/or participate in the activities they offer. Libraries are different in that frankly once the graduate population leave university they probably never visit a library again until they have children. Museums serve a wider demographic than libraries and consequently get bumped up into a so-called pro-rich category. I love libraries, but I am old school and you can't easily access what museums offer by walking into a shop or online, whereas with books you can. Sadly we shouldn't be surprised that a report reviewing the whole of local government services fails to understand the varied nature of such services. Some very clever people have come up with this way of classifying local government services and they are bl**dy well going to fit every service neatly into one of their tidy boxes because that is what their idea demands. If every service turned out to be pro-poor then the whole point of the procedure i.e. to rank services would be negated. I would be interested to know how they rank cemeteries, crematoria, parking inspectors, trading standards, environmental health and public parks and gardens. As the cliche goes - services for poor people become poor services. Perhaps local authority museums in Scotland are too good to be classified so-called pro-poor??
29.11.2016, 13:06
I don't understand how libraries have been classified as "neutral poor" services and museums as "pro rich" when its often only museums and libraries that are offering free access to learning and wellbeing opportunities within their local communities. The classicisation of libraries as "neutral poor" also seems to contradict the statement in Annex D that a sample list relating to "cultural and recreational" services includes libraries and not museums, where Annex A lists under the "cultural and recreational" heading, museums and galleries.
27.11.2016, 20:53
Even shutting the so called pro rich service I work for would only realise 0.4% of the £36m cut being imposed on the local council by an anti-poor government.