MA response to Cultural Metropolis: the Mayor's Priorities for Culture 2009-2012

January 2009

1. The Museums Association (MA) is an independent membership organisation representing museums, galleries and heritage organisations in the UK and people who work for them.

The MA has over 5,000 individual members and 600 institutional members. These institutional members encompass around 1500 museums in the UK ranging from the largest government-funded national museums to small volunteer-run charitable trust museums. 99 of these institutional members are London-based.

3. Formed in 1889, it is a charity, receiving no regular government funding, which seeks to inform, represent and develop museums and people who work for them in order that they may provide a better service to society and the public.

The MA has a particular interest in workforce development, works closely with Creative and Cultural Skills and has experience of running positive action training programmes.

Since 1998, the MA's Diversify programme has trained over 100 people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds for work in the museum sector.

The MA's model has now been adopted by a significant number of museums who have run positive action traineeships themselves, with support from the MA. The programme is beginning to make a substantial impact on the character of the museum workforce.

From this perspective, we wanted to comment briefly on the section of Cultural Metropolis concerned with workforce development and diversity. We support the GLA's ambition to develop a more strategic approach to workforce diversification and would be very pleased to work with the GLA on any future initiatives.

6. To date, our workforce diversification initiatives have focused on people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and disabled people. We believe that there is a continuing need for positive action for these groups in the museum sector.

However, we agree with the GLA's analysis that other groups are also under-represented in the museum workforce, including people from lower socio-economic groups. We are in the early stages of planning a new training programme which would target socio-economic disadvantage.

7. Cultural Metropolis refers to a need for more research on the barriers which stand in the way of some people developing successful careers in the cultural sector. There is now a substantial body of research into the barriers to entry to the museum profession, some undertaken by us as part of our own positive action programme, and some commissioned by MLA.

We should be happy to share the findings of this research with the GLA. The most significant barriers (low pay, the requirement to have volunteered) are already well-recognised and indeed are referenced in the Cultural Metropolis document. So we would urge the GLA not to devote too much energy and resource to new research that might be better spent on strategic programmes to overcome these barriers.

8. Our own priorities and programmes in terms of workforce diversification align closely with those set out in Cultural Metropolis and we would welcome opportunities to work with the GLA on developing your strategy further.

Helen Wilkinson
Projects Officer
Museums Association
24 Calvin Street
E1 6NW
020 7426 6950