Black Country Living Museum was awarded designated status in 2012

Have you taken part in designation survey?

Patrick Steel, 27.08.2013
Arts council continues review of designation scheme
The Museums Association (MA) is encouraging its members to respond to an Arts Council England (ACE) survey of museums as part of its review of the designation scheme.

The survey forms part of a wider review of the scheme, which includes a stakeholder roundtable discussion and face-to-face conversations.

Writing in next month's Museums Journal, Maurice Davies, the MA’s head of policy and communications, says the central question facing the scheme: “Can a collection be important enough to designate if the museum that looks after it is in chaos?

“Until now, before a collection is designated (as of ‘outstanding merit’) the museum holding the collection has to be good enough to be fully accredited.

“But that’s very different to the way we identify important buildings. Every building of merit is listed, whoever owns it and however badly they look after it. The advantage of that is we know about all significant buildings, and can look out for those that are in trouble.”

In the MA’s response to ACE’s consultation on the scheme earlier this year, it suggested that collections that are neglected could be placed on an “at risk” register, in a similar way to important buildings that have been neglected. ACE would then need to take some responsibility for working with the collection holder to devise a rescue package to secure the future of the collection.

The MA is also keen to see an “additional light-touch, non-bureaucratic review” of designated collections every five or 10 years.

The next Museums Journal comes out on 1 September.

To complete the survey, please click here

For MA’s response to the designation consultation, click here (word)


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Anooshka Rawden
MA Member
Museum Officer, Chichester District Museum
06.09.2013, 09:30
This move shows strong recognition of the issues and problems facing many museums in the current climate. However, one possible danger with an 'at risk' register that promises (strategic/financial/practical) direction from ACE to formulate a rescue package, is that this could be seen as a 'way out' by local authorities in particular - who are facing tremendous pressures to make huge financial savings in the current climate. Effectively, a museum or archive service could be extensively cut to make it 'at risk' if the rescue format was attractive enough to be seen as a means for some governing bodies to absolve themselves of responsibility to care for or manage collections that they own. Not all Council's would even consider this, but recent situations have proven that many Councils are out of touch or ignorant of their responsibilities towards collections, and have also displayed the vulnerability of collections in this climate. A governing body would need to recognise their own commitment to the process in order for it to work. The English Heritage 'at risk' register depends on sizable funds to meet the demand for action when it comes to buildings at risk, and so a financial rescue package will be just as important as strategic and practical advice when it comes to saving collections (and essential collections services) deemed to be 'at risk' in the museums sector. The issues facing English Heritage at the moment with demands on grant money rising suggests that any 'at risk' program introduced to museum collections needs to recognise the very essential need for financial support as part of any 'rescue package', and the heavy demands that may be placed on this.