MA warns of museum closures ahead

Patrick Steel, 18.06.2013
Sector is at tipping point, says MA director
As the cuts to government departments and local government bite deeper, there is every possibility of the closure of all or part of some museum services.

There are predicted cuts of at least a further 5% in next Wednesday’s spending review on top of an average of 20% cuts (more in real terms) already endured by museums.

Some buildings and services cannot survive - particularly in local government, which is being pressed very hard at the moment.

Museums Association (MA) director Mark Taylor said: "We are reaching the tipping point. Museums have high costs in maintaining public buildings and these cuts mean that they have little or no money to make collections available to the people that own them – the public.

"We risk having the world’s largest collection of white elephants up and down the country with museums either closed or unable to deliver adequate levels of service.

"The Museums Association surveyed cuts to museums in 2011 and 2012 (our 2013 survey will report in the autumn).

"We found that 31% of respondents experienced a budget cut of more than 10% in the past year alone.

"22% of respondents have reduced access to sites by closing whole or parts of sites, permanently or temporarily."

More than a third of museums who responded to our 2011 and 2012 surveys had experienced a cut of over 35% over the two years, leading to reduced staff and reduced public services.

By 2016 national museums in England may have had their funding from government cut by almost 30%. This decline in the UK’s world-class museums coincides with increasing demand for museums.

Public participation has reached an all-time high since records began. The proportion of people who visited a museum or gallery reached 52% in 2012/23 - a significant increase from 42% in 2005/06.

This means that some four million more people visited a museum in 2012/13 than in 2005/6.

Recent research into public attitudes to museums shows that the public has a strong, growing, emotional attachment to museums. Museums occupy a unique and privileged place in the public imagination.

There is a consistent view that museums have changed for the better and free entry is highly valued. Museums are trusted by the public, in stark contrast with suspicion of the spin and bias of other public institutions.


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19.06.2013, 19:21
The current situation for museums requires creative thinking to enable our services to exist beyond the current financial crisis. Of course the situation is grim but we must develop new ways of working and engaging with our publics by thinking beyond the tired old ways of working. Let's be creative in developing new partnerships and new ways of working. Let's touch on the possibilities rather than the doom and gloom. We need to embrace this change (we have no other choice) to sustain our museums and collections into the future.
If some museums close, well to put it bluntly, perhaps their relevance has already passed its used by date.
Let's look forward courageously, creatively rather than looking back to 'good old days'.
19.06.2013, 14:23
This is devastating.

We must work together to find ways to be more efficient with the funding provided; and, I imagine, work with the private sector to improve the situation.

I can't think of a more sad picture than an empty or closed museum.