From where I'm standing - Museums Association

From where I’m standing

Outreach will be one of the big losers in forthcoming cuts
Felicity Heywood
The Museums Association’s survey of hub museums’ forecasts of what a cut to Renaissance in the Regions funding might mean for the sector makes troubling reading, but the results are not unexpected (see p15).

Each hub was sent a questionnaire asking what might happen to different areas of policy and practice in the event of a 25 per cent cut, or a complete end, to Renaissance.

A legacy of Renaissance has been the extension of learning and access staff within museums that has consolidated community and outreach engagement. This has helped a more of the public to understand that museums are indeed for them.

All respondents to the survey are clear about one thing: cuts to Renaissance will mean that working with minority audiences will be one of the first things to be reduced.

For some it will have to disappear altogether. This area of work is expensive and without earmarked funding, will be impossible to justify as a priority to council or trust when activities considered core need attention and money.

What is feared is a return to a time when audiences were of a particular age, cultural background and colour. Vital work done with visitors with disabilities, those from

African and other cultural backgrounds, will suffer. Hard-to-reach audiences will once again be left to fend for themselves. Diversity will no longer be the familiar word it has become to museums.

And the effects could go far deeper than we fi rst envisage. One hub museum told me that many of the outreach and community staff were from visible minority groups.

These staff are employed on short-term contracts and perhaps were never going to become part of the core, but with people of visibly different hues gone from the staff, this could have an impact on who feels that the museum, and jobs within it, are for them.

And as another respondent to the survey pointed out, working with hard-to-reach audiences is a long-term activity and calls for a stable relationships between staff and target audiences. It is based on trust, and it is this that is most vulnerable under cuts.

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