Renaissance review: report and summary

Renaissance review

Report and recommendations of the review panel

"The review recommends that the overall vision for Renaissance as a national initiative is revisited, revised and restated."

Key recommendations:

  • DCMS to protect Renaissance funding and commit to long-term support

  • Renaissance funding ringfenced within MLA

  • Replace regional hubs with 10-12 core museums

  • National Renaissance Board to replace Regional Renaissance Boards

  • Renaissance to be at the centre of the National Museums Strategy

  • Integrate partnership working between national and non-nationals

  • More recognition for wider museums sector

  • National framework of Museum Development Officers

  • Instigation of a fund to provide for museums in Renaissance 'cold spots'

  • More coherent, more joined-up management

  • Standardised, coherent reporting and accounting mechanisms for all Renaissance projects

  • Publication of annual review describing operations, investments and achievements

MLA response

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s response to the independent Review of Renaissance

"The MLA accepts the opportunity the report gives to restate the Renaissance vision."

Key points:

  • Do not favour proposal for national governance board

  • Agree Renaissance should be linked to national strategy

  • Will consider core museums proposal

  • Will consider Challenge funding to other museums, also in partnerships

  • Will consider national network of Museum Development Officers

Leading museums

A vision and strategic action plan for English museums

Ten point plan:

  • Public funding to follow excellence (DCMS)

  • Developing and revitalising the Renaissance vision (MLA with Renaissance partners)

  • Review and develop Accreditation (MLA)

  • Strategic approach to collections management (MA)

  • Enhancing national/regional partnerships (NMDC)

  • Museums at the heart of culture and public life (MLA)

  • Promoting the role of museums as international ambassadors (NMDC)

  • Developing leadership and the workforce (MA)

  • Investing in the digital future (MLA)

  • Promoting sustainable finance and governance (MLA)

Appendix 1

The scope of the Renaissance Review


  • Track the development of the Renaissance programme, up to the end of 2007/8 and assess these against its initial intentions as articulated in the 2001 Regional Museums Task Force's Report

  • Relate past and current Renaissance priorities and working practices to current and future museum sector priorities

  • Make recommendations for the priorities, management and delivery of the Renaissance programme, 2009/10 - 10/11 for which funding is guaranteed under the 2007 CSR, and beyond.

Appendix 2

Preliminary Discussion Document
Sara Selwood, Sara Selwood Associates

Describes the Renaissance programme, the issues perceived to be facing it, and proposes what the Review should cover and how it might proceed.

"MLA has been criticised for having 'overseen a plethora of national meetings without a clear decision making structure, terms of reference or criteria for membership' (Hub). As the new Executive Board wondered, 'How and why have certain decisions been made?'"

"None of the hubs have had their performance reviewed and no judgements have been made about the effectiveness of the distributed model - whether 'one size fits all'."

Appendix 3

Financial Analysis
Adrian Babbidge, Egeria

"It is easier to focus on the questions raised by the lack of information than to acknowledge the successes that have clearly been achieved."

"MLA appears to have adopted a policy of ensuring that money was spent (ie appeared as expenditure on its annual accounts) rather than seeing that it was wisely spent."

"The limitations of the management of the Renaissance programme make it difficult to make any solid assessment of its financial outcomes, other than it appears that the money has been treated as additional expenditure, and has not substituted for what should be the museums' core funding to any great extent."

Appendix 4

Data Review
Adrian Babbidge, Egeria

"Visits to museums in England were in decline until around the turn of the millennium, but began to recover at the same time as Renaissance funding became available."

"The general trend is for Hub museums to out-perform their Scottish and Welsh counterparts, where there is no equivalent to Renaissance."

"Figures suggest that Renaissance has had a positive impact on overall visit numbers, and that Phase one hubs reaped the benefits earliest."

Appendix 5

Helen Wilkinson

"MLA lacked the capacity to take on the direct responsibilities required of it were the programme really to deliver a transformed regional museum sector: initiating and guiding programmes of organisational change within museums, developing a framework for rationalisation of museums, ensuring that the hubs and regional agencies coordinated their work and adequately supported non-hub museums...

"...this failure meant that the Renaissance programme has produced many excellent individual strands and projects but that the programme as a whole has not yet fulfilled its full transformational potential for the museum sector."

"The difficulties in defining the roles of the hubs and regional agencies with respect to Renaissance implementation and fostering a successful working relationship have run through the programme."

"It is clear from a review of the available documentation that both DCMS and DfES (as it then was) exerted more influence over the early stages of the development of the programme than might have been expected. Their influence seems to have served to move implementation further away from the original vision of the report, with a particular emphasis on education outputs."

Appendix 6

Review of hubs and hub partners
Julie Carpenter, Education for Change, & Nick Moore, Acumen

"There were significant management failings. They included: the lack of a clear and consistent vision; no strong sense of leadership; an over-complicated and burdensome planning process; short planning timescales and an overall lack of trust. These all reduced the effectiveness of the programme."

"The situation was further complicated by the ambiguous role of the MLA's regional agencies. Within the hubs the management was not always strong enough to overcome the barriers and constraints."

Appendix 7

Review of the impact of Renaissance on the wider museums community
Julia Holberry & Erica Anders, Julia Holberry Associates

"The obligation of the hubs to work with the wider museums community is ambivalent and, by some hubs, appears to be seen as optional."

"Involvement of the Museum Development Officers would ensure the projects could meet the needs of the wider museums community, and clarify the reasons why they should become involved."

"The smaller museums find it difficult to know 'who' Renaissance is. There is no 'face' to Renaissance and this is exacerbated where there is a weak or non-existent MDO network."

Appendix 8

Review of Renaissance 'other programme strands'
Gaby Porter, Gaby Porter + Associates

"Renaissance programmes created the opportunity for some museums to transform themselves, change their relationships with their audiences and 'raise their game' considerably."

"On the whole these programmes did not deliver consistently in two key areas of the Renaissance vision, and have not led to sustained, and sustainable, change: engaging audiences with collections and achieving cultural change through workforce development."

"DCF should be re-focused as a fund to increase outcomes, impact and learning based on outstanding collections and knowledge resources. This requires a shift of emphasis from application guidance project descriptions and end of project reports to targeted investment, working in partnership with museums with Designated collections to share learning, foster excellence and raise aspirations."

Appendix 9

Analysis of submissions to the Renaissance Review
Pooja & Acushla Lynds, MLA

Analysis of 146 responses, including 54 via web survey, 83 emails and nine letters in the post

"MDOs were considered to add real value in their capacity as external 'museum professionals'"

Two specific problems that were identified were Renaissance's lack of:

  • sustainability: it is short term and project-based, and

  • uniformity: benefits are not seen and changes are not embedded equally across the sector

  • The priorities for the future are to:

  • Continue the programme: the funding is highly valued and has had a positive impact in many places

  • Communicate a clear vision and purpose to the sector, especially what the aims are and potential benefits to smaller museums

  • Improve the sustainability of funds and posts, longer periods of secure funding

  • Widen the reach beyond hubs, involve all parts of the sector

  • Have clear structures for regional governance and decision-making

  • Monitor performance based on outcomes at different levels

  • Improve partnerships and collaboration, across and within regions

  • Make stronger links with other government agendas

  • Focus on users as well as collections

Appendix 10

Horizon scanning

Pooja Sachdev and Acushla Lynds, MLA, based on workshops by Peter Tebby, National School of Government

"Renaissance may need to move from direct provision of services to a commissioning model based on demonstrated need and the delivery of outcomes. Funding needs to be longer term (i.e. a minimum of three years, ideally five) which will allow more strategic planning focusing on the delivery of outcomes and will help achieve sustainability. Exploring alternative funding streams will be one of achieving this."

"There might be less funding for Renaissance. This will require the remaining funds to be carefully targeted, which will in turn require a clear understanding of the ambitions of partners, the desires of customers, and the services which meet those desires. Resource re-allocation will need a better understanding of the cost base. Better evidence will be needed to demonstrate the outcomes achieved."

"Tensions between long term core funding, against project based grant funding may increase."

Appendix 11

Good practice and public value
Pooja Sachdev, MLA

"Most museums acknowledge the importance of understanding and meeting visitor needs but many do not have sufficient resources to do so. They also face pressures from local and central government to deliver against other agendas such as learning and community engagement, and it is often challenging to balance these demands with limited or short-term funding."

Recommendations for museums in receipt of Renaissance funding include:

  • diversifying and/or reframing collections to appeal to a wider audience (in terms of demographics like ethnicity, age, religion, family structure)

  • communicating the ‘social’ and ‘escapism’ aspects of museums to appeal to dominant visitor motivations, and enhance the museum environment so that it can meet both sets of needs

  • consulting experts to learn more about available technologies and how they can be best used to increase visitor interaction, access and choice

  • up-skilling staff to enable them use newer technologies

  • developing staff in different ways to widen the skill set in the sector

Appendix 12

Renaissance review and MLA reform
Roy Clare, MLA

Five planning principles:

  • Capacity to develop capability in the workforce

  • Capacity to exploit collections for the wider benefit

  • Capacity to establish partnership working

  • Capacity to establish excellence

  • Capacity to establish sustainability

Appendix 13

A National Strategy for English Museums (draft)

Six page document setting out strategy and action plan


  • Ensure excellence in scholarship and collections curation

  • Develop a clear infrastructure, matching available resources against public entitlement

  • Ensure best practice in leadership, governance and entrepreneurship

Appendix 14

Research and evaluations commissioned by MLA

List of 145 pieces of research and evaluation commissioned by MLA