Taylor emphasises museums' resilience

Geraldine Kendall, 24.06.2011
MA director makes keynote speech at Yorkshire federation AGM
Museums Association director Mark Taylor has told delegates at the AGM of the Yorkshire and Humberside Federation of Museums and Galleries that the sector is "more than capable of staying afloat".

In a speech earlier this month entitled Waving not Drowning, Taylor emphasised the resilience of museums and urged them to “concentrate on the 75% [in government funding], not the lost 25%”. He said the sector needs to show it can be "flexible and imaginative" in the face of cuts.

Taylor criticised the haste with which the government enacted its programme of spending cuts, saying its lack of forethought had “made a difficult situation worse than it needed to be”.

But, he said, museums were in a better position than they were 20 years ago, when the sector also faced significant cuts.

“We have had 15 years of improvement, lottery funding upgrades, decent funding and popular support,” he said.

Taylor urged museums to fully integrate into the Arts Council England’s (ACE) agenda when it takes over from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

“We cannot remain aloof and semi-detached,” he said. “To leave Renaissance on the fringes will make it vulnerable and exposed the next time the Treasury comes hunting.”

Museums were far ahead in comparison to other sectors covered by ACE, said Taylor.

“Museums are more sophisticated in their thinking - they have many more volunteers, they are further down the road to the ‘Big Society’, they are more locked into the local sense of place, they have more embedded and wider ranging education services.”

But Taylor acknowledged the numerous difficulties facing the sector. Referring to ACE’s impending takeover, he said: “Aside from Renaissance, [ACE] has c. £2.5m to do what MLA had £13m to do.”

The fact that ACE has been forced to raid Renaissance funding to pay for core activities was, he said, “reprehensible but understandable”.

Taylor also restated the MA’s opposition to the core museum model planned for Renaissance. The MA is instead advocating that Renaissance funding should be opened up to all museums and judged strictly on public benefit.

Taylor went on to discuss the problems facing local government services where, he said, the “real carnage” is taking place. “We are losing so many of the gains and improvements we have seen in the last ten years,” he said.

Under these circumstances, the MA was vital as an independent advocate for the sector, said Taylor. He added that the Association would continue to build extensive resources to help museums make their case at a local level. 

Taylor also emphasised how important museum federations were following the “collapse of all things regional”, saying that the MA would do all it could to help raise their profile, membership and influence.

“The MA is certainly saying to ACE that it believes that Federations can step up and step in to provide some regional and local support, and infrastructure and funds should be available for this.”

Finally, Taylor urged sector bodies to ensure they are all talking, communicating, forming partnerships and having conversations.

"Now more than ever we need to come together," he said.

To read Taylor’s speech in full, click her (pdf)

For more details on the MA's Renaissance proposals, click here