As a national museum, National Museum Scotland receives Accreditation directly from ACE

MGS to charge non-subscribers for Accreditation

Rebecca Atkinson, 30.01.2013
Body says it must cover its costs
Museums in Scotland that do not subscribe to Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), the national development body, will have to pay to cover the costs of Accreditation, it has been revealed.

Members of MGS last year voted in favour of it becoming an independent charitable trust supported by the Scottish government. As such, it will deliver the country’s new national strategy and other resources, including Accreditation, on a subscription basis.

Although museums do not have to subscribe to the body, those that do not will be required to pay a fee for Accreditation, which Museums Journal understands to be about £2,000. National museums that are covered by the 1985 Heritage Act, such as National Museums Scotland, receive Accreditation directly from Arts Council England (ACE).

A spokeswoman for MGS said: “There is a real cost associated with the work involved in processing Accreditation applications. How these costs are absorbed by the administering organisation differs.

"Accreditation activity by ACE is supported by Renaissance funding. Northern Ireland Museums Council's membership model supports its museum members through the Accreditation process, but with core funding from its sponsoring government department.

"MGS is no longer a membership organisation but operates a subscription model. In our case the costs of Accreditation are largely subsidised by the core grant we receive from the Scottish government. The work around the assessment, report preparation and presentation at the Accreditation panel is partly covered by the subscription fee."

ACE, which administers the Accreditation scheme, does not charge for applications to Accreditation. A spokesman said: “The delivery and resourcing of Accreditation in each UK nation is the responsibility of the relevant agency or body – in Scotland’s case, MGS.”

But one museum professional in Scotland said: “There’s a real danger that standards will slip in Scottish museums if they have to pay to be part of a UK standard. In this economic climate everyone’s cutting corners and many museums could opt out of Accreditation as a result.”

Board appointments

MGS this week announced the appointment of seven new board members.

They are:  Vivienne Cockburn, associate director of the Scottish Futures Trust; David Gaimster, director of The Hunterian, part of the University of Glasgow; Donna Heddle, director of the Centre for Nordic Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands; Ellen McAdam, head of museums and collections at Glasgow Museums; Charles Sloan, executive chairman of the Gordon Highlanders Museum; Matthew Vickers, chief executive officer at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission; and Ian Walford, chief executive of Historic Scotland.

Neil Curtis, head of museums at the University of Aberdeen, welcomed the board appointments and said he hoped it would lead to genuine engagement with the sector about what services MGS will offer.

“If MGS wants to act on behalf of the sector then it needs to consult on specific proposals for services, policies, procedures and charges,” he said.


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01.02.2013, 09:09
Most, if not all, of the larger museums are already accredited. The push is always to bring smaller museums into the fold, and these are almost always independent and overwhelmingly volunteer run with minimal income.

In the past some have even struggled pay the MGS membership, and if the accreditation bar is now set high at a fee of £2000 it will almost certainly ensure that far fewer of them will want to go through the process.

The quality of objects, the role as regional repositories of Scotland's history, and the massive injection of volunteer capacity into the sector freely given by these museums is enormous and is without question undervalued and underestimated.

I always encourage independent museums to gird their loins and undertake the huge task that is the achievement of accreditation: they learn so much about where they are going and where they want to go, and there is no doubt that standards rise as they work through the process and get engaged with Collections Link and other resources.

Clearly the aim of MGS is to ensure that museums subscribe in order to bring them into the fold - and I don't disagree with the logic, but I suspect the fee of £2000 will look all too readily like an 'arm up the back', or indeed a penalty for not doing so.

Much will depend on how the subscription is set for small and/or independent museums - which basically dominates the whole of Scotland outside the central belt and the Dundee/Aberdeen corridor. We are not dealing with a minority issue here.

It will also depend on how the newly appointed MGS board draw their strategy for a genuinely nationwide reach for a sector which is known to be poorly understood and under-supported.

If the new programme is going to meet the independents' needs, they may well become subscribers. If not, they will spend their scarce resources elsewhere. If this is the case, they are highly unlikely to invest in accreditation at £2000.

If I could make one recommendation to the new MGS Board, it would be that they commission a study of the independent museum sector in Scotland, scoping their impact, capacity, reach, collections base and needs.

As a subscription organisation aiming to represent the sector as a whole, they need to make sure that the devil doesn't take the hindmost as they they draw and roll out the strategy of the newly framed organisation.

It is their best route to a wide subscriber base, and with any luck no small museum will feel the need to face a £2000 bill.
MA Member
31.01.2013, 11:57
The move by MGS to charge for Accreditation is deeply worrying.

Its implications for Scottish museums are huge. When members of MGS voted about the new constitution last year the matter of subscription was not the key issue. The vote was on re-constituting as a non-member body.

But could it be that it is subscription that is the real problem? Perhaps subscription is membership in disguise, but without the benefits of democracy?

And could it be that subscription is what is blocking MGS being able to take forward the National Strategy that everyone is craving to get moving on?

When I read the Museums Think Tank report, that recommended change to MGS and announced the National Strategy I thought - great - at last we are all going to have the chance to work together to develop our sector and increase its value.

Now, I thought, there were going to be opportunities (say) for keen young professionals to develop strategic skills (leadership skills) enrich their jobs and progress their careers by being able to take part in strategic programmes and initiatives.

And in the process of doing that, MGS as the national development body, could continue provide its services, but with more buy-in, because this would now be aligned with a shared National Strategy.

Win-win, I thought!

And now this announcement about Accreditation - the standard upon which so many funding opportunities depend.

One National Strategy initiative could be to bring more people into the processes of Accreditation. What would be wrong, with working with third parties in the sector by sub-contracting Accreditation advice to sector partners, for example?

Wouldn’t this tick National Strategy boxes around skills development? And partnership?

And reduce internal costs too.

In its update of 27 Feb last year, MGS promised that in moving towards being a national development body ‘There will be a move towards increased partnership working through a stronger focus on exchange of best practice and skills with the sector, and a strategic commissioning and contracting approach to delivery.’

I ask myself - how long are we going to have to wait for that?’