Problems for small Museums in recession

Salon IFA 227 reports closures and threats to various museums - particularly shocking is the threat to the Butchery Road museum in Canterbury.

'Further gloomy news is emerging from the museums sector, where national museums and galleries, such as the British Museum and the Royal Academy, are attracting record numbers of visitors, but smaller museums are under threat, principally from local authority spending cuts, though the diversion of Heritage Lottery Funds into the Olympics is also being blamed for a shortage of funds for the sector.

Museums are responding by reducing opening hours (Glasgow Council plans to shut five museums on Mondays to help save £60m, Bournemouth’s Russell-Cotes Art Gallery is considering winter closure to save £79,000 and Brighton’s Booth Museum of Natural History is contemplating a three-and-a-half-day week as part of the council’s £8m savings package), by selling assets (the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro is planning to sell two paintings to raise £3m), by making staff redundant, or by closing (the fate of the Peat Moors Visitors Centre, near Glastonbury, and the Lock Museum in Walsall, with the Aston Transport Museum in Birmingham also under threat of closure).

Further closures may now be inevitable. Salon has already reported on the tribulations of the Segontium Museum, near Caernarfon, and now Salon learns that Canterbury City Council is proposing to close its Roman Museum in Butchery Lane, move the exhibits elsewhere and use the space as a cafe. Such a use will fit ill with the fact that the museum is built around a scheduled monument, consisting of a fine mosaic from a Roman courtyard house excavated by our Fellow Sheppard Frere in 1945 and open to the public since 1946. Concerned Canterbury residents are asking whether Caerleon, Cirencester or Bath would close their Roman museums to save money.

Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association, said that many museums ‘depended on public sector support’, while a Local Government Association spokesman said that local authorities faced declining income and increasing demand for services: ‘The cold wind of recession has hit councils in the last year. Undeniably difficult choices have to be made.’


Georgia Butters said…
Just a note of clarification. The Royal Institution of Cornwall is the charity that owns and manages the Royal Cornwall Museum. It has not suffered a loss in local authority funding, but it is expecting the Renaissance in the Regions governemtn initiative to cease or seriously reduce post 2011. At present this accounts for nearly 60% of its total £1.3 million expenditure. The Trustees have for sometime been concerned about the reliance on Renaissance funding and so set up a programme to raise a £10 million endowment by 2018 through legacies and donations. These take a long time to mature and so the Trustees and members are supporting the proposal to sell two paintings to raise £3 million for the endowment. This will not be spent, but will be invested. The money earned on the investment will then be used to support the collections. It's something that the Americans do a lot, but it is not as common in the UK and guidance is being sought from teh Museums Association to ensure that ethical guidelines are followed.

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