Understanding the Future: Museums and 21st Century Life - The Value of Museums

July 2005
1. Introduction

1.1The Museums Association (MA) is an independent membership organisation representing museums and galleries in the UK and people who work for them. The Association 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.

1.2 Formed in 1889, it is a not-for-profit 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.

1.3 This response draws on the views of MA members. Contributions to the response were invited from all members and the MA's elected Council discussed the document at one of its three annual meetings.

2. The Value of Museums

It is more than two hundred and fifty years since the emergence of museums and galleries of the kind we might recognise today. Museums are still an essential part of our public realm not only because many of them successfully contribute to education, citizenship and other government objectives but also because many of them have a long term social function.

2.2 They bring local people together, they bring all kinds of communities into contact with each other, they care for local, regional, national and international collections, they bring meaning, context and consistency to our more fragmented and diverse 21st century cultural and community life.

2.3 The MA is concerned that these benefits do not get lost amongst shorter term government initiatives and that they are properly recognised and supported.

3. Main Issues

Three issues are important to the future of museums and they need to be addressed outside the response to the consultation questions.

3.1 Renaissance in the Regions is bringing success to its hub member museums and the scheme has started to spread those benefits beyond the hub museum boundaries, providing invaluable support to many new initiatives. The initiative is vital to the development of England's regional museum structure.

3.1.1 There are however, concerns that the Renaissance scheme put under pressure to be something which fixes problems for all museums and is the sole channel for all museum discussion, development and policy implementation.

There is already confusion about whether Designation Challenge Funding and funding for national/regional partnerships are part of Renaissance or separate. There is a danger that Renaissance alone will be perceived as being synonymous with a national museums strategy.

3.1.2 The MA fully supports Renaissance and its development but we believe it is only part of a much-needed wider museum strategy which should accommodate all kinds of museums.

3.1.3 We believe that Renaissance should be properly supported to fulfil its vision and it needs a continuing financial commitment to do this. We think its remit should remain relatively focussed and its aims should not be spread too widely.

If this happens then the risk is that it gives a tiny amount to many rather than a sufficient and meaningful amount to few.

3.1.4 Further work is needed to identify the most effective ways to support museums outside hubs so that they can also begin to achieve their full potential. Further work is also needed to decide how best to develop the relationships between national and regional museums.

3.2 The last ten years have seen unprecedented growth in the funding opportunities for museums, which many have seized. The Heritage Lottery Fund has made a significant impact on museums right across the UK and not just financially.

3.2.1 Project and capital funding has enabled museums to re-organise and modernise and has been the catalyst they have needed to take audience needs and expectations seriously.

Moreover, the project process has increased museums' ability to make concrete financial and other partnerships and to look outside the museum world for ideas and assistance.

Success has helped museums become more confident organisations and has raised many museums' profiles politically and in regeneration and cultural initiatives.

3.2.2 The Heritage Lottery Fund was barely mentioned in the consultation. Museums cannot afford to lose this vital source of funding, which must continue. Without funding of this kind museums cannot hope to fulfil many of the ambitions discussed in the consultation.

3.2.3 The MA wants to see the Heritage Lottery Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund retained and their funding protected, particularly in the light of London's successful Olympic bid. DCMS is reminded that the lottery funds are there to serve the whole of the UK, not just London.

3.3 The Goodison Review has been a useful method of examining crucial finance issues for the museum sector such as tax-efficient giving and acceptance in lieu.

3.3.1The MA would like to see the tax-friendly attitude encouraged by the report's findings continued. These methods are often crucial to a museum's development and sometimes survival. Much valuable work has been done on Gift Aid but the MA would like to reinforce the message that it has been a vital support to museums and many will lose crucial income due to recent changes to the scheme.

3.3.2 Acquiring collections, whether historic or contemporary, is the lifeblood of museums and schemes such as Acceptance in Lieu have been vital to this. However museums cannot thrive without serious acquisition funding.

4. Museums for the Future

4.1 The MA suggests that DCMS and others should consider what the museum sector might look like in the future. Our own vision, some of which is already emerging, might include:

· A museum-aware public who feel able to engage with museums and get what they need from them;

· Governance structures, including the Culture Department, which understand and value museums and their contribution to 21st century life and use this in wider advocacy and planning;

· A UK wide national museum strategy which underpins museums' ability to speak and work together on common issues;

· A stable and trusted strategy body which is light and flexible enough to respond to new agendas but which retains a strong and systematic core of long-term leadership;

· A single funding council (embedded in the strategy body) which would enable much more efficient and coherent funding for museums;

· A skills council which consolidates and generates work on developing museum skills, training and support, tackling recruitment and retention issues and tools to assist career planning, mobility and diversity;

· A thriving work and volunteer force drawn from many different kinds of people with many different kinds of skills and experiences and who can get fully involved in communicating collections and creating a good experience for museum audiences;

· A widely-shared, dynamic and imaginative attitude in museums about ways to deal with their collections, create, capture and share knowledge and engage audiences;

· Continuing funding for capital and revenue projects from the national lottery through a dedicated heritage lottery fund;

· Data sets of museum information which are consistently and efficiently gathered and published and which are used effectively in marketing museums to stakeholders;

· Collaborative and effective networks of shared museum information brought together at a variety of user levels and which is easily accessed through a number of well resourced and marketed portals;

· Open and supportive partnership-focused national museums, able and willing to lead the sector in fostering expertise, research and international relationships;

· Modernised and well resourced large regional museums in a good position to share expertise and information with other museums regionally, nationally and across the world;

· Adequately supported small regional museums which are able to make use of brokers who can help them access wider benefits;

· People working at local and regional levels who are able to provide advice, practical help and build and maintain relationships between museums and with other sectors;

· A sector which has the knowledge, support and resources to influence those responsible for governing museums.

Consultation Questions

Issue 1 Collections and their Uses

5. Q1: How should museums develop and utilise their collections to serve the concerns and interests of the whole population most effectively? Should this include releasing parts of their collections to others, including outside the museum?

5.1. In 2004 the MA led a UK-wide enquiry looking at these questions and many more. The results were published in June 2005 in a report called Collections for the Future.

The inquiry looked at how museum and gallery collections can best serve the needs of museum users in the future. MA feels that the report's findings will assist DCMS in addressing some of the questions raised in this consultation.

5.2 It was prompted by a sense that collections have been relatively neglected in policy terms in recent years, and that it was time to attempt to resolve some of the debates about collections, which resurface from time to time.

5.3 The MA believes that in the 21st century museums, and those responsible for museums, must begin to look again at the assets they hold and make informed and more confident decisions about them. If people are entitled to access to museums, then they have to be entitled to engage fully with collections.

They need to be able to attract diverse audiences but need also to recognise and reflect the core audiences which have always supported them. Opening up more of their collections can help fulfil these needs.

5.4 A stronger emphasis on collections is not just compatible with increasing access and learning in museums: it is vital to it. We want to dispel the notion that museum access activities and museum collections activities are in competition with each other. Our view is that they are part of the same drive to engage people in museums, in collections, in cultural values.

5.5 Collections for the Future makes the point that although much has been done in museums to address this, too many museum collections are still underused - not displayed, published, used for research or even understood by the institutions that care for them.

5.6 The report discusses three key themes: improve engagement, create a dynamic approach to collections and strengthen the sector.

5.7 Improving engagement means museums must encourage more opportunities for people to get involved with collections, to get more collections in active use and to improve their management and knowledge base. It is not just about completing documentation or putting things on display. Most museums will never be able to document or display everything.

There are many more ways of getting a collection used and seen by a wider audience and more ways of communicating those collections effectively. Museums need to think more creatively and be supported to do so.

5.8 The dynamic approach includes actively developing collections, having an intelligent approach to acquisition, facing up to responsible disposal and encouraging the mobility of collections.

Museums should create the means to share collections more widely, loaning collections to museums and other organisations and transferring collections that are underused in one museum to another organisation which can better exploit their potential.

5.9 Strengthening the sector includes increasing collaboration, investing in training and planning and rebuild and renew sources of expertise such as supporting subject specialist networks. Making confident decisions about communication, interpretation, acquisition and sharing collections needs a good knowledge base. Many museum professionals have become more generalist. At the same time, there are few efficient ways of spreading and sharing expert knowledge.

5.10 Collections for the Future includes many practical examples and suggestions, which we will not repeat here, for using collections more effectively. Crucially, it also identifies areas in which there need to be more discussion within museums and by policy makers to determine the most effective way forward.

5.11 The MA believes that Collections for the Future will be part of a long running and influential debate. It will also be a focus for action, not just words. The MA's action plan is based on working with others to deliver these agendas.

The MA would welcome a close and collaborative working relationship with DCMS on these issues and we are extremely pleased to see that Understanding the Future and Collections for the Future share so much common ground.

5.12 Recommendations

· Museums should be assisted to share their collections more widely;

· There should be a formal process in which the MA engages with DCMS, and other appropriate organisations, to ensure that these debates and actions are taken forwards.

6. Q2: How can the sector ensure that the opportunities offered by ICT, electronic access and digitisation are fully utilised for the benefit of users and to reach out to non-users.

6.1 Museums and policy makers need to think carefully about the overall objectives of an online presence. Audiences expect to have access to good quality and trustworthy information and do not care about sector divisions.

All too often there is a knee-jerk reaction to creating an online presence of some kind without examining the overall purpose, the content, structure, interoperability and user-friendliness of the end product and how the product will be sustained and refreshed.

6.2 There are many digitisation projects competing for funds without the means to consolidate or sustain them. There have been many initiatives and thousands of projects but the results have not been as effective as they might have been, often creating or exposing frustrating limitations.

6.3 Effective digitisation cannot be done on its own. To cover collections comprehensively, a great deal of background work needs to be done in conservation and other areas of expertise, in order to get a good product. Digitisation is not a substitute for collections care and management; it can in fact add to the burden.

6.4 ICT objectives for each sector should be revisited. Museums and other heritage organisations cannot be expected to bring together their collections as a shared and accessible digital resource without strategic leadership. Without this strong steer from the top, museums and other sectors will continue to have an online presence which is patchy in quality and does not meet audience expectation.

6.5 Recommendations

· DCMS and sectors need to seriously review the purposes of creating online material and identify what is really needed.

· DCMS and MLA should lead on finding effective solutions for ICT development.

· MLA's role and responsibilities in ICT need clarification.

Issue 2: Learning and Research

7. Q3: How can museums strengthen their commitment to education as a core and strategic priority within the overall commitment to collections and users.

7.1 Collections for the Future reinforces the message that collections' needs and the needs of learning and access are not mutually exclusive: museums need both areas of expertise. There needs to be a strong message from the top level of every museum management structure that all the functions of a museum have a role to play in making collections available to the public.

7.2 Museums need to sustain and strengthen education and audience-development work. These activities rely on building relationships, which in turn need consistency and reliable support to make them meaningful. We do not have up to date information but fear that much museum education and audience development work is not core funded but is supported by fixed-term project funding.

This needs to be addressed if education and audience development work is to be sustained. Education and audience development expertise need to be adequately represented in each museum's senior management team.

7.3 Lifelong learning is not mentioned in the consultation. There is more to museums education than schools. Forcing museums down the schools path is not always appropriate and the one of the benefits of using museums for education work is that they can adapt to many levels of interest, knowledge and understanding.

7.4 DCMS should recognise the value of older (and other) learners and include all types of learning in its thinking on education, particularly with any future work with DfES and others.

7.5 Recommendations

· DCMS needs to focus less on short term initiatives in education and instead should encourage consolidation of effective initiatives by targetting their support at measures which build on achievements and extend and support initiatives which have been beneficial.

· Any targets should be set within a longer timescale and there should be a more robust approach to exit strategies and sustainability.

· DCMS should remain committed to life-long learning and recognise museums' contribution to this agenda.

8. Q4: How can a stronger research culture be build and sustained, as well as quality measured across the museum sector? What role should Government play?


How could stronger links be created between the Higher and Further Education sectors and museums?

8.1 In general, links between museums and higher education are far less well developed than they might be. There are reasons for this: the approach taken to particular subjects by museums and by universities may differ significantly.

Research carried out in museums and presented in the form of exhibitions and catalogues may have been undervalued by universities' performance management regime, thereby discouraging them from investing resources in museum projects.

8.2 Nevertheless, the higher education sector has such significant resources at its disposal that it must be worth pursuing possibilities for links at a variety of levels from undergraduate to senior academic.

Universities also have methods of working which might prove useful for museums to adopt, such as peer assessment to review practice and knowledge transfer systems which develop services for business and communities.

8.3 It is not just university museums that have a role to play in making the intellectual resources of higher education more widely available. Other museums could play a role in working with Higher Education. The MA welcomes the identification of the potential for closer links with Higher Education and Further Education.

8.4 Taking advantage of research resources of universities could help improve the quality of museum related research, whether collections or audience related.

There also needs to be a clearer definition of "research", as this is often loosely defined and executed in the museum world. The hub and Designated museums could be required to undertake research with other partners as part of remits to share practice and knowledge.

8.5 We welcome the recent announcements by the Arts and Humanities Research Council that they intend to take a strategic overview of humanities research in all UK museums and that larger museums can apply for 'academic analogue' status so that they can apply for a wide range of research funding. We urge DCMS to support the AHRC in this work.

8.6 Recommendations

· The MA urges DCMS to engage fully with the AHRC (and other appropriate funding councils)

· The MA suggests reinforced support of research and scholarship and museum/HE collaboration through specific funding streams.

· The MA suggests clarification of the types of research needed and a clarification of what is meant by various kinds of "research".

· The MA urges MLA and DCMS to actively encourage responsible museum-based research and to explore the possible benefits of individual museums being required (perhaps through accreditation) to develop research strategies

Issue 3: Careers, Training and Leadership

9. Q6: How can the sector achieve the right balance of pre-and post-entry training to build skills for the range of their workforce?

9.1 A rather unsatisfactory approach to entry into museum work has developed over the past decade or so. In general individuals are expected to reach a high academic level, usually at their own expense, before museums will consider them for even the most basic professional museum job.

9.2 For posts requiring a high level of subject-specialist knowledge individuals tend to require a higher degree in the subject concerned. Even for more general posts, the routes into the profession have traditionally been based on post-graduate qualifications, and there is little sign of this decreasing.

9.3 Academic routes can act as barriers to knowledgeable and enthusiastic people who cannot afford to, or do not wish to, spend several years undertaking university level training in order to be in with a chance of even the most basic professional museum job.

Often to even get a place on a museum-studies course, applicants have to have undertaken a significant amount of voluntary work in a museum. This further narrows the pool of people who are able or willing to consider a museum career.

9.4 The current model also places responsibility for selection of entrants to the profession on the shoulders of universities and museums do not play a significant enough role. Museums can have unreasonable expectations that people completing museum studies courses will have all the training they need; yet much of the skills curators and others require is gleaned on the job itself. Many courses are, by themselves, inevitably poor preparations for this.

9.5 Museums need to take far more responsibility for entry-level training and to work in partnership with training providers. At present pre- and post-entry training is haphazard, often heavily dependent on where people get their first jobs and what the employer attitude is to development.

9.6 Museums need to develop a closer and more mutually beneficial relationship with museum related courses. For example museums could be much more open to receiving and supplying trainees and mentors.

Museums could themselves recruit new personnel, who would then undertake a museum related course or other external training while working for the museum and receiving internal support. (this model has been used successfully in the Museums Association's Diversify scheme.)

This would result in more relevant experience, new ideas coming into the museum, cost effective recruitment and a more stable early career period. Museums could also take more responsibility for establishing their own mentors or champions for their organisation, who might assist new employees in negotiating a career path.

9.7 A further benefit would be that if museums do begin to bear more of the cost of pre- entry or entry level training then they would have a very legitimate role in influencing and shaping the content of training courses.

9.8 The academic route offers little for people who want to work in museums but who do not necessarily want to be a curator or a manager or a conservator, in other words a "museum professional".

"Non-professional" staff are often the ones who create the museum's atmosphere and are in closest daily contact with the visiting public. Too often these roles are over-looked or under-valued, whereas, used well, they can help improve a museum's image, reputation and responsiveness. These people therefore also need to be included in any discussion of training and development.

9.9 Museums need to work with training providers to develop a greater range of entry routes to museum careers. However, simply creating more varied training routes is not the answer unless any chosen route is endorsed by the sector and is robust enough to ensure its successful participants have the tools they need to both get jobs and progress in careers.

9.10 It will cost museums more if they become more involved in entry-level training but it is worth noting that there is a great deal of training money available from a variety of sources but relatively few museum organisations seem to explore or take full advantage of it. Museums clearly need support in accessing this funding.

9.11 Specialist skills and expertise have traditionally been learned on the job, but there are now few posts which offer the chance for junior staff to work alongside more experienced staff, building their skills in a structured way. There is a clear lack of succession planning, passing on knowledge and experience as people retire or move on and no structured pathways through a museum career.

9.12 Recruiting specialist technical help is reaching crisis point in many collections areas, for example in industrial and transport collections which often need skilled engineers to understand, preserve and maintain their objects.

Skilled workers who have specific skills are becoming rare right across the heritage sector and their abilities are not rewarded adequately. This is one area where succession planning and in-depth training and development are desperately needed.

9.13 The MA runs its own associate and fellowship schemes which provide mentoring, training and support.

9.14 The Associate of the Museums Association (AMA) scheme is a professional qualification demonstrating a commitment to and understanding of museums, and involving continuing professional development (CPD). The Fellowship is for more experienced professionals.

9.15 It is a mark of the scheme's success and respect in the sector that many employers will pay for their employees to undertake the AMA. The benefits that it brings to the employer in turn benefit the organisation as a whole.

Employers find that staff undertaking professional development gain greater knowledge, broader experience, improved performance, more confidence for greater responsibility and more clearly defined training goals.

9.16 A large part of boosting success and morale is the MA's work on CPD. Members can not only do CPD as part of their Associateship and Fellowship but are also encouraged to continue this outside the schemes in an initiative we introduced in 2003 called CPD Plus.

9.17 We believe CPD is one of the most important ways to gain and maintain staff skills, help them plan their careers and improve mobility, training and career progression (this point is also relevant to question 7).

9.18 Following the recommendations in Collections for the Future, the MA will be reviewing its schemes and hoping to develop them even further.

9.19 DCMS support for leadership training is welcome. Strong leaders are needed to encourage and enforce solutions to pressing problems such as workforce development. But leadership needs are not limited to those at the very top of organisations. Almost every stage of career progression in museums presents problems which require leadership skills.

9.20 Recommendations

· DCMS, MLA and the Sector Skills Council, working with the MA, need to undertake a thorough review of entry to museum work and make a commitment that new, more effective and more accessible routes will be introduced;

· This review should look at training and development needed by museum workers in their first 5-10 years in post, not just in the immediate pre-entry and entry stage;

· The review should take into account all types of skills training museums need, not just training for graduate curators or senior "leaders";

· The Sector Skills Council should develop a "one-stop-shop" for careers and training information;

· Larger museums in receipt of regular central funding should be required to take more responsibility for training future entrants to museum work.

· DCMS, museums and sector bodies should develop closer links with and understanding of relevant course providers at all levels of higher and further education and develop more mutually beneficial relationships.

10. Q7: What initiatives and targets would increase mobility, training and career progression for all types of museum professionals?

10.1 Progression and mobility are serious problems. Many museum staff are trapped in roles that do not draw on their skills and potential. Much talent is wasted and energetic and committed people leave the sector because they cannot sustain a career or meet a dead-end. The sector desperately needs specialists but the more people specialise, the more difficult it becomes for them to move around.

10.2 Low pay remains a serious issue and may discourage suitable applicants from pursuing a museum career as well as limiting mobility and progression. Low pay is often glossed over as a museum worker's "penalty" for pursuing a job which is done for the love of a subject and which have traditionally been very stable types of employment.

Times have changed. The marked increase in responsibilities, the gradual disappearance of final salary pension schemes, the increased uncertainty of employment and much more fixed-term contract working all mean that better pay is needed. Better salaries are to be found in freelance, administrative or strategy positions while those directly working with collections or public are often less well paid.

There is significant potential for a greater use of secondment schemes - a suitable replacement has never been found for the Sharing Museum Skills Millennium Awards. Commitment from employers and individuals to continuing professional development is still patchy.

Short term contracts are also exacerbating the problem of training and professional development activities as many institutions do not see the benefit in training and developing temporary staff. In this way staff are being penalised for not having a permanent job and are prevented from being able to gain the skills to help get permanent positions.

10.4 Recommendations

· Enable skills development, training and mentoring to happen at many job levels and whether a post is temporary or permanent.

· Require museums to develop and implement training plans, particularly for any posts and projects supported by Renaissance, other central government funding and lottery funding

· Raise awareness amongst employers about the impact of poor pay levels

11. Q8: What must be done to secure a better representation of currently under-represented groups in the museum workforce and in the sector's governance?

The MA has taken the lead on this in the sector. The MA's Diversify scheme has brought new talent into museums and is increasing the cultural diversity of the profession. The scheme offers traineeships to individuals of African, African-Caribbean, Asian or Chinese descent to work in museums and galleries.

The scheme is largely funded by Renaissance money. Fifty one people have so far benefitted from the scheme since 1999. Eighteen people have completed the scheme, of which twelve have secured long-term permanent employment in the sector, others are in a variety of short-term posts or continued study or training.

Six Diversify bursaries were awarded in May 2005 and the recipients are now in the process of applying to museum studies courses. They will begin their training this autumn, as will four more trainees in hub museums.

11.2 However, this is only a beginning. Many more individuals from minority-ethnic backgrounds need to be encouraged to join the museum workforce and there need to be many more positive-action training opportunities. If these are to be sustainable, they need to be funded from museums' core budgets.

11.3 Museums need to recognise that diversity and under-representation are serious issues, but most are not as committed to this as they might be. Positive-action schemes may therefore be needed inthe sector for a long time before there is a significant change.

There is room for a nationally led programme that tackles diversity at governance and senior management level and helps senior members of the museum community change their organisation's attitudes and actions.

11.4 DCMS need to move beyond rhetoric and be seen to be taking action. It is encouraging to see DCMS supporting the Global Graduates' "Young Graduates for Museums and Galleries" Scheme. But more needs to be done. DCMS sponsored bodies need to be seen to be taking the lead.

11.5 Recommendations

· There needs to be a significant expansion of positive-action training that can meet nationally set targets that are reflected in museum or region-specific targets.

· DCMS needs to take more explicit action to diversify governance of the museum boards it controls and to do more to encourage and support the diversification of the boards of other museums.

· A member of each large museum's senior management team should have clear responsibility for race and diversity, including diversification of the museum's workforce.

· There needs to be a nationally led programme to support diversity and help senior staff change their organisation's attitudes and actions.

Issue 4: Coherence and Advocacy

12. Q9: Would structural changes better support museums and provide effective means of ensuring a national strategy for museums?

12.1 The MA welcomes the consultation's comments on unity. At the moment the museums world suffers from the perception that it is fragmented and confusing and in many ways this is true.

However, the sector has made massive steps toward speaking with one voice over the most important issues such as Gift Aid and the collaboration over the Museums Manifesto in 2004.

12.2 A national strategy would help all kinds of museums feel part of a wider network and be able to take advantage of its collective strength and direction.

A crucial foundation of the path towards a national strategy is to create a single funding and strategy council. For example, initiatives such as Renaissance are much improved by having the funding and the strategy overseen by one body.

12.3 The devolved administrations are developing their own approaches. Scotland, for example has built on its work on the National Audit in 2002 and has turned its attention to developing a significance recognition strategy which will help prioritise and shape museum development.

It is hoped that these will inform whatever comes out of the developing cultural strategy for Scotland in the future.

12.4 Given these and other ideas from the devolved administrations the sector must be clear whether it should develop a UK wide national strategy or only for England. The MA would strongly advocate a collective UK wide national strategy.

Museums might have boundaries but at an intellectual level most collections do not, although many have more meaning in one location than another. We must address the issue of sharing and mobilising collections over strategic boundaries.

12.5 Recommendations

· DCMS should create a single funding and strategy council

· DCMS and UK wide partners should develop a national museums strategy

13. Q10: How best do we combine more coherent and efficient delivery of museum services with a service that is responsive to the needs of local communities and users?

13.1 A common perception within museums is that government interference in museums at a local/regional level should be lessened not increased. Initiatives such as Renaissance should be rewarded for their success with increasing amounts of trust and freedom to deliver to their communities.

The MA suggests the sector needs fewer new initiatives and more consistent funding and other means of support for successful existing approaches.

13.2 Continuous performance assessment currently being more widely developed for museums in particular and for the cultural sector more generally should be developed to show a closer relationship between service development and how they serve their public. However these must be meaningful and consistent.

Issue 5: Partnership and Measuring Value

14. Q11: How can partnerships within the museum sector and with other sectors be better embedded?

14.1 The National Museums should take the lead on creating effective and meaningful partnerships between themselves and regional museums. To some extent this happens already, but the larger schemes often only happen as part of short or medium term projects (significant ones have been funded by HLF).

14.2 Regional museums have been calling on national museums to work with them for some time and particularly help them access and share expertise. Meaningful partnerships, that is ones where the partners have a long term and equal relationship, have been slow to emerge.

14.3 Partnerships and relationships are hard to build and sustain in isolation. Most museum staff do not have the time and overview needed to devote to building and sustaining every relationship they need.

14.4 Museums need help from people well placed to negotiate this area, who might be termed "brokers". Brokers would be useful to help build relationships and encourage joint working. With one individual able to act as a catalyst, it becomes possible to bring in external funding and achieve results far in excess of what the partners might achieve individually.

14.5 Recommendations

· DCMS should strongly encourage their sponsored national museums to have a long term plan and strategy for collaborating with regional museums and share staff, expertise and collections.

· DCMS should encourage collaboration and sharing of expertise, particularly encouraging "brokers".

Q12: What systems or methods should be used to assess quality and success in the museums sector?

15.1 The MA is involved in the current activity on comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) alongside MLA and other organisations. There is scope for making the current museum indicators represent a broader and more relevant range of museum activities.

There is much more to a museum's relationship with its audience than numbers and whatever quality measurement schemes are developed need to reflect this.

MLA suggests that measurement schemes such as Benchmarks in Collections Care and Inspiring Learning for All should be the starting points for measuring quality performance.

The MA agrees in principle but would suggest that decisions still have to be made on what constitutes a "successful museum" and what delivers a "good quality" museum experience before meaningful and practical ways to measure and judge this can be developed.

Quality, success and impact all remain loosely-used terms and while agencies have studied these the sector has yet to see any joined up thinking on the subjects.

15.3 Any data gathered on the sector needs to be brought together in one place in a format which is easy to access and understand and which is regularly up-dated. Whatever data is gathered it needs to be consistent and reliable.

15.4 Recommendations:

· Data gathered needs to be in one place and be consistent, accessible and reliable.

Q13: What could happen to make international strategic alliances possible between museums?

16.1 Few UK museums lend or borrow internationally on any significant scale.

The MA is very supportive of the idea of partnership schemes such as FRAME, between French and American art museums. This has successfully built a strategic alliance, organising two or three touring exhibitions every years since 2001.

The MA would like to see schemes like this created by DCMS with international partners.

16.2 The British Council has done valuable work across the world in promoting British museums, art and artefacts. Their work is not always as well known or understood in the UK as it might be.

More work could be done between the British Council and British museums and the British Council could raise more awareness at home about their international strategies.

16.3 A cultural policy framework for use in international diplomacy might also be an advantage an the MA would welcome further exploration of this issue.

16.4 Recommendations

· UK museums should be enabled to join partnerships similar to the FRAME model.

· More could be done to utilise the contacts and expertise of the British Council.

· An international cultural policy diplomacy framework should be created.

Further Enquiries:

Judy Aitken, Policy Officer, Museums Association, 24 Calvin Street, London E1 6NW


020 7426 6950