The Red House Museum in Gomersal closed in 2016

Sector agrees on collective response to museums in crisis

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 19.09.2018
MA and 15 other sector bodies will work together to offer guidance
Museums and collections in crisis across the UK will be able to access a more coordinated level of support and guidance, according to an agreement published this week by 16 museum and heritage sector bodies, including the Museums Association (MA).

The joint statement sets out a commitment between the organisations to take "a coordinated approach in response to situations when museums or collections are at risk". The 16 organisations will work in partnership together to offer guidance to institutions in difficulty.

Examples of risk could include the threat of closure or loss of public access; cuts in funding and support; less capacity and loss of expertise within a reduced workforce; the loss of Accredited status and its associated benefits; or collections or buildings that are at risk of sale or dispersal.

The commitment comes in response to the Mendoza Review of Museums, published in November last year, which recommended a new protocol to shape the response to museums and collections at risk.

The joint statement reads: "The organisations supporting this statement wish to provide appropriate and timely advice in such situations, supporting governing bodies in their decision-making. However, the responsibility for the stewardship of the museum, its buildings and collections remains with the governing bodies and an effective response will depend on the willingness of an organisation to take ownership of its issues.

"We urge organisations, or individuals, who have concerns about the sustainability of a museum or collection to contact the most relevant organisation, as early as possible. We commit to sharing information between relevant parties, if given permission to do so, so that we can determine who is best placed to help. We recognise that in some cases, there might be a need for confidentiality and more discreet conversations.

"When approached with concerns, we commit to working in partnership. We will meet to discuss appropriate responses. Our aim will be to help ensure the public retain long-term access to the collections held for their benefit.

"Our joint response will take into account the circumstances of each case, recognising that museums vary greatly in terms of the collections and buildings they manage, their users, business and governance models, scale of operation and income streams.

"We recognise that it may not be possible to secure a long-term future for some museums or collections. However, we believe that the chances of a positive outcome are greatly increased if there is timely and open discussion about the situation and if all appropriate organisations are involved in giving advice and support."

The 16 organisations are: the MA, Arts Council England; Museums Galleries Scotland; the Northern Ireland Museums Council; the Heritage Lottery Fund; the Army Museums Ogilby Trust; the Association of Independent Museums; the Collections Trust; English Heritage; Historic England; the University Museums Group; the Art Fund; the National Museums Directors' Council; the National Trust; the National Archives and the Museum Development Network.

Collections 2030, a major research project by the MA on the long-term purpose, use and management of collections, will examine the risks facing museum collections.

Links and downloads

Read the full statement on collections at risk