Editorial - Museums Association

Editorial

Museums Manifesto sets out sector's stall
Brexit General Election
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Simon Stephens
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The run-up to a general election always creates mixed emotions. There are feelings of hope and anticipation, with the possibility that positive change is coming. But, whoever you are planning to vote for, there is also the fear that nothing will change or things will become worse once the results are in. These feelings are heightened in the current climate of uncertainty created by political wrangling over Brexit.

For museums, it is a frustrating time in many senses. Across the UK, those working in the sector know how much more they could do for the communities they serve with relatively small increases in public spending and a few other key changes. This is why the Museums Association has published the Museums Manifesto, which outlines what the sector needs from the next government.

Some of it is about money. After years of austerity, museums supported by local authorities are in desperate need of investment. And while the manifesto welcomes the recently announced £125m of funding for the maintenance of regional museums in England, it states that more will be required to meet the urgent maintenance and infrastructure needs of museums across the UK.

But there are other ideas that will need very little cash, such as support for digital infrastructure and skills development to ensure museums and their collections remain accessible and relevant. There is also a call to simplify business rates, which are a major financial burden on the sector, especially as museums are valued differently across the UK.

And there is no way to escape from the issue of Brexit. The manifesto recommends that the best outcome for museums would be for the UK to remain a member of the European Union, but recognises that this might not happen. If that is the case, the government should negotiate a close economic partnership with the EU.

I recently attended the Network of European Museum Organisations annual conference, and it was inspiring to see the benefits of exchanging ideas, knowledge and expertise with colleagues across the continent. But there is also something deeper in the values we have in common and the shared vision we have for the future of museums. Losing this would be a huge shame.

Simon Stephens, editor, Museums Journal
simon@museumsassociation.org

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