DCMS review calls for 9-point Museums Action Plan

A report commissioned by the culture department from creative industry entrepreneur Neil Mendoza, calls on museums macros England for partnerships if the sector is to grow and prosper, and an urgent action plan.

The Mendoza Review, the first review of England’s museums in over a decade, highlights three priorities in potential Museums Action Plan for the DCMS, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund to be in place by September 2018.

0         helping museums adapt to the modern funding environment

0         improving collections management to make them more accessible to the public

0         growing and diversifying audiences

0         ensuring museums contribute to local priorities

0         delivering cultural education

0         developing future leaders

0         diversifying museums’ workforce

0         increasing digital capacity to improve exhibitions’ appeal

0         work internationally

The review says the “strong, dynamic” sector is responding well to an increasingly competitive visitor market, finding new sources of income. England’s museums, visited by more than half of the country’s adults, employs 33,000 people.

“England has a world-class museum sector” Mendoza said. “Museums play a vital role in the cultural life of the country. Museums sit at the heart of our towns, cities and communities. They are also our most successful tourist attractions. Their curators care for collections for all of us now and for future generations.

“National and local government are both deeply involved in this important sector” he added. “This review sets out a series of recommendations to government and its key strategic and funding agencies (like Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund) requiring them to work closely together to help our museums flourish.”

Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, said the MA was pleased that many of the issues raised during consultation buy the association had been heeded, in particular the need for a strategic funding approach. "We are also pleased to see recognition of the opportunities that we identified for the sector relating to the social impact of museums, particularly in supporting placemaking, wellbeing and spaces for debate, and would be happy to work with government and agencies to take forward recommendations in particular around workforce, diversity and collections". 

The report recognises the severe funding difficulties experienced by many museums, therefore it is disappointing that the government has failed to identify any new resources or capacity to improve the sustainability of the sector. The Government’s own figures show that local authority funding for museums in England in 2016 was 31% lower in real terms than in 2010. This dramatic reduction in core funding has resulted in museum closures, reduced opening hours, the loss of museum expertise and low morale.” 

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, also welcomed the Mendoza review. "It captures the breadth, dynamism and ingenuity of what museums are doing across the country" he said today. "Neil Mendoza’s statement that ‘Museums sit at the heart of our towns, cities and communities’ is evident in the hundreds of museum partners we work with nationwide, but given this we would strongly encourage the government taking a more pro-active approach in demonstrating to local authorities the benefits they can unlock by providing the bedrock of funding for their museums". 

But two charities representing deaf and disabled museum users were dismayed that theneeds of the disabled were missing from the review. In a joint statement, Matthew Cock, chief executive of VocalEyes, and Melanie Sharpe, chief executive of Stagetext, said: “The only factors mentioned and the only case studies cited relate to participation across socio-economic and ethnic groups, and geography. There is no mention of the participation gap evident between disabled and non-disabled visitors, or the need for museums to improve access information, services or resources to address this gap. We were disappointed not to see these given equal weight.

“If something is absent from a list of priorities, or not identified as being relevant within one of those priorities, the conclusion has to be made that it is not a priority” the statement said. “We call on DCMS to explain why, in the period since 2016, access and inclusion for disabled people is no longer a priority for them, and the sector, despite the strong message sent out by Arts Council England’s NPO 2018-22 funding proposals?”

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