Image: Tate Modern, Combat Stress

MA members urge ACE to prioritise community engagement

Geraldine Kendall, 09.08.2011
Consultation on ACE's 10-year goals for museums
A Museums Association (MA) consultation on the Arts Council England’s (ACE) goals for museums has revealed that many respondents favour prioritising community engagement.

The MA held a brief online consultation at the end of July asking members how they believe museums should fit into ACE’s long-term strategic framework.

Contributors were asked for their responses to six questions, from where they would like to develop impact in their own museums, to how the arts council should prioritise wider goals such as sustainability, learning and engagement.

The consultation garnered 65 responses from a wide range of museums and staff, with particular representation from local authority museums and staff in collections-related posts.

Although the sample was self-selected and not representative of the sector as a whole, the survey found that the number of comments relating to relationships with communities greatly outnumbered comments on other themes such as learning and access to collections.

One respondent wrote: “The public needs to feel the museum belongs to them, that the collections are part of their culture and their future development.”

MA head of policy Maurice Davies said the responses showed that museums valued working holistically with communities rather than simply working for audiences, with many emphasising that they would like to develop their impact in areas such as health, wellbeing and the tourist economy.

Davies said: “What really surprised me is the dominance of comments about having an impact on communities. Those far outweighed comments on collections and even comments on learning.

“What [the respondents] are really saying is that ACE has to recognise the importance of museums’ work with communities. Participation is not optional, it should be a compulsory goal that museums have to reach.”

The MA has made the results of this consultation available to the arts council in order to inform its long-term goals and funding criteria.

ACE released further details last week on how it will deliver the Renaissance programme, which included scrapping Core museums in favour of a programme of major grants with an open application process.

Full details of ACE's goals for museums will be published this September in a companion document to its 10-year strategy for the arts, Achieving Great Art for Everyone, which is being extended to include the museum and library sectors.

For more on the MA's consultation, click here