Chiswick House reveals 'creative campus' plans

05 Mar 2024

Chiswick House & Gardens Trust (CHGT) has unveiled plans to create a new learning hub with facilities to support 200 volunteers and artists’ studios.

The project aims to address the charity’s long-term viability and will also work with local residents to turn an unused outdoor space into a fruit garden.

CHGT said creating its new "campus”, Cedar Yards, will support the growth and accessibility of its volunteering and community activity. The addition of affordable workspaces for up to 100 artists and makers will also offer a new source of income for the trust.

So far, a third of the project cost has been raised, underpinned by funding from London Borough of Hounslow through Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) grants and funds from the Thriving Communities and Creative Enterprise Zone Grants. The rest of the funds are being raised from charitable and private sources.

Xanthe Arvanitakis, Director of Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, said: “This ambitious project has been designed to directly impact the wellbeing of our local community as well as enhancing cultural and creative enterprise activity in London Borough of Hounslow.

"By creating more public green spaces for local people, we can expand our learning and community programme, which is currently running at capacity. With the introduction of affordable workspaces for artists and makers, we will foster a local creative economy and generate much-needed new income for the trust.”

Activists arrested after Kelvingrove protest

04 Mar 2024

Two climate activists have been arrested following alleged vandalism at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Climate activist group This is Rigged said protesters staged a demonstration on 3 March to raise awareness about rising food insecurity in the UK. They are calling on the Scottish Government to implement a community food hub for every 500 households in Scotland.

In footage posted on social media, protesters were seen pouring porridge and jam on a bust of Queen Victoria and graffitiing its plinth.

In a statement, the group said: "We refuse to be dragged back to the Victorian era. Diseases such as rickets, which once haunted Victorian slums, are now on a sharp rise in Scotland, with 356 diagnoses in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area last year."

Police Scotland said officers were called to the attraction in Glasgow's West End at about 11:55 on Sunday and that two women, aged 23 and 30, were charged following the incident involving a Queen Victoria bust.

They were released to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court at a later date.

Emergency roof repairs at British Museum due to 'endless leaks'

27 Feb 2024

Emergency roof repairs were carried out across four galleries at the British Museum last week following an "endless series of leaks", according to a report in Arts Newspaper.

The action was taken in galleries containing Greek, Cypriot and Japanese artworks, where buckets were being used to catch drips and extra heaters to reduce humidity levels.

In a speech last year, museum Chair George Osborne acknowledged issues with the museum's fabric: "For decades, it has been patched up in a piecemeal way and by closing galleries when the rain comes in."

Plans to upgrade the entire building, starting with galleries on the ground floor, are in place. However, progress was impacted by the resignation of director Hartwig Fischer following the revelation last year that over 2,000 artefacts had been lost, stolen or damaged over a 19-year period.

Last December, the British Museum signed a 10-year partnership with oil giant BP to fund a significant redevelopment of its Bloomsbury premises in a move that environmental groups have heavily criticised.

The museum said the £50m from BP will help it deliver its master plan and ensure millions of visitors can "continue to access the collection for generations to come".

In a statement to Arts Newspaper, a museum spokesperson said: "We have been open about the fact it is in need of full-scale renovation." They added that the museum's master plan represents "one of the most significant cultural redevelopment projects undertaken anywhere in the world."

Majority of heritage organisations planning cuts 

Front of Chiswick House in West London, UK.
26 Feb 2024

Survey commissioned by the National Lottery Heritage Fund highlights action being taken by heritage organisations in the face of budget pressures.

Museum’s £4.7m extension paused due to rising costs

26 Feb 2024

A £4.7m extension to Nuneaton Museum has been paused after a council review of capital projects said the expenditure in the 2019-2020 business plan had not accounted for soaring interest rates and costs.

As a result, the project to add a double glass extension on either side of the building has been put on hold indefinitely.

However, the museum will still get a new lift and a steel bridge over the River Anker to improve access for visitors.

Colston statue to go on permanent display

22 Feb 2024

A statue of the transatlantic slave trader Edward Colston will go on display at Bristol's M Shed museum after councillors rubberstamped the move yesterday (21 February).

The Art Newspaper reports that Bristol City Council's planning committee removed the statue’s Grade-II listing as part of the process for making it part of the museum’s collection.

The statue was toppled by protesters in 2020 before being plunged into Bristol Harbour. It was included in a temporary exhibition at the M Shed Museum but has been out of public view since January 2022.

A city-wide survey by the We Are Bristol History Commission found that 80% of respondents were supportive of the statue going on display at M Shed.

The commission’s chair, Professor Tim Cole of Bristol University, said: “I was pleased to see that the planning committee approved the officer's report recommending that the statue enter permanently into the museum collection. 

"Museum display emerged overwhelmingly in the conversation we — as a history commission — had with the city in 2021 as the most appropriate site for this contested and complex object."

Historic England funds projects showcasing working class heritage

21 Feb 2024

From celebrating old factories and buildings to local activities and communities, Historic England has split £875,000 across 56 projects showcasing aspects of England’s working class history.

Science Museum signs deal for new Saudi hub

The Science Museum, London, as seen from Exhibition Road
19 Feb 2024

Science Museum Group said it hopes the new Riyadh hub will help it collaborate with museum professionals, researchers and educators in Saudi Arabia.

British Museum mutes social media over moai statue campaign

19 Feb 2024

The British Museum deactivated the responses on a social media post after being flooded with comments from Chileans demanding that the institution return two moai statues from Easter Island.

Comments of "return the moai" began to inundate the museum's social channels after Chilean social media influencer Mike Milfort, who has 7.5m followers on TikTok, encouraged his fans to spam the museum’s Instagram page.

The statues, which date from between 1400 and 1650 AD, were taken from the Chilean territory of Rapa Nui. They were given as gifts to Queen Victoria in 1869 by Commodore Richard Powell before being endowed to the British Museum.

The British Museum said it only deactivated comments on one post, shared in collaboration with a youth charity, as it welcomed debate but felt it had to be "balanced against the need for safeguarding considerations, especially where young people are concerned".

The museum added that it has "good and open relations" with colleagues in Rapa Nui, and there have been several visits from the community to London since 2018.

The moai campaign is the latest repatriation debate to hit the British Museum. In December, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said Greece would not recognise the British Museum’s ownership of the Parthenon marbles, stating they “were stolen by [Lord] Elgin, abused, vandalised and sawed up to be in England”.

Medoni also said Greece “cannot accept either ownership, or possession, or jurisdiction [over the marbles] from the British Museum”.

Last week, the government confirmed that a law that would have allowed the restitution of artefacts on moral grounds would not apply to national museums and galleries.

National museums excluded from restitution law

14 Feb 2024

A law that would have allowed the restitution of artefacts on moral grounds will not apply to national museums and galleries, the government has confirmed.

Currently, most national cultural collections in England are prohibited from deaccessioning items. However, sections 15 and 16 of the Charities Act 2022 would have allowed trustees to request permission from the Charity Commission if they felt there were moral grounds to make a voluntary transfer of property.

The government says the bill's potential consequences were not made clear when it was passed by parliament. The relevant section was suspended in 2022 to allow the government more time to consider it.

In January, Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson wrote to the Charity Commission clarifying the government's position on the bill.

Parkinson said: "The potential consequences of these provisions were not made clear by the Law Commission when the bill was introduced and were not the subject of parliamentary scrutiny or debate during the passage of the bill.

"The policy of HM Government is that national museums and galleries should continue to be bound by their governing legislation, precluding them from resolving to restitute objects from their collections other than in the limited and specific circumstances expressly provided for in legislation.

"To that end, we will specifically exclude those national museums and galleries from the commencement of sections 15 and 16 of the act."

When the full act comes into force later this year, non-national organisations will be able to make smaller restitutions without consulting the Charity Commission, except where the recipient is located outside the UK.

Museum proposes using mine water for clean energy 

14 Feb 2024

The National Coal Mining Museum has proposed using geothermal heat to help it decarbonise.

The museum pumps an average of 1.5m gallons of water out of Hope Pit daily, which could be used as an alternative energy source. The scheme, which would cost an estimated £2m, could also heat nearby homes,    

Mine Director Shaun McLoughlin told the BBC: "Here at the National Coal Mining Museum, we've realised the potential of the heat from mine water, so we are currently in consultation with Kirklees and Wakefield Council to harness this potential.

"There is enough energy at this mine to provide the heat to heat the houses in Overton, Newhall Prison and decarbonise the whole museum."

McLoughlin added that a scheme could also offer a "great visitor experience for people to see the science and technology at work".

Bristol council set to vote on de-listing Colston statue

13 Feb 2024

Plans to de-list a statue of the transatlantic slave trader Edward Colston so it can be permanently housed in a museum are set for approval by Bristol council.

The Grade II-listed statue was toppled by protesters in 2020 before being plunged into Bristol Harbour. It was included in a temporary exhibition at the city's M Shed Museum but has been out of public view since January 2022.

Bristol City Council's development control committee will vote on 21 February on a proposal to delist the statue.

If approved, the statue will be part of an exhibition on protest that due to open next month.

The move follows a public consultation by the We Are Bristol History Commission, which found 80% of Bristolians agreed it should be placed in a museum.

According to a council report, Bristol City Council Conservation said a statue of Colston returning to its plinth was "not a reasonable expectation" due to the possibility of "civil unrest".

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: "I remain in support of the view that the best place for the statue is in a museum where its context, and that of what it represents to many communities, can be appropriately shared with diverse audiences."

Council votes to support museum’s overbudget renovations 

12 Feb 2024

Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) has voted to continue supporting the redevelopment of Ipswich Museum after a £2.7m overspend.

The museum closed in October 2022 for renovations and expansion, initially budgeted at £8.7m, half of which was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).

Now with an estimated cost of £11.4m, after rising inflation and supply chain issues, IBC voted on 6 February to ensure the project is delivered in full, unanimously deciding to apply for a second round of funding from the NLHF.

According to a council report, NLHF has indicated that it will consider an additional funding application if the council provides match funding.  

At a committee meeting, the council was warned that, if rejected, the project could be subject to a complete review, halting it for at least 18 more months.

"It's really hard to see what other option we have because we are so far down this road now," said Conservative councillor Ian Fisher.

"If we don't vote for it, we get something that's not going to be anywhere near what we wanted."

Labour councillor Carole Jones, portfolio holder for planning and museums, said: "There are improvements that we need to make, and this is not an extravagant scheme.

"We are where we are, and we can only go forward."

Government launches £24m fund for museum building projects

Rotunda Museum Interior
12 Feb 2024

The government's Museum Estate and Development fund supports capital projects for museums.

Financial pressure taking 'physical and mental' toll on museum leaders

A mannequin in armour sitting on a fake horse at the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
07 Feb 2024

Study finds declining public investment levels have resulted in museum trusts using reserves to plug gaps, running the risk of contravening their legal obligations as charities.

Activists target Science Museum over fossil fuel sponsorship

Protesters sitting in on a panel debate organised by the Science Museum
06 Feb 2024

A group of climate activists including Greta Thunberg protested the museum’s ongoing sponsorship deal with several fossil fuel corporations at a public panel debate.

Museum workers to strike over cost-of-living payment

Clockwise from top left: Museum of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery
06 Feb 2024

National Museums Liverpool said it is facing a £2m shortfall, making it "impossible" to pay employees the £1,500 payment agreed on by the Cabinet Office for all civil servants.

Art gallery put up for sale after funding runs out

05 Feb 2024

An art gallery in Great Yarmouth that opened three years ago has been put on the market after failing to cover running costs once its grant funding ran out.

The Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust (GYPT), which owns the Yare Gallery, said that rising costs of wages, utility bills, maintenance and insurance led to the gallery's closure last year after its grant funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the government's Culture Recovery Fund ran out.

The trust received £176,800 across two Culture Recovery for Heritage funding rounds.

Bernard Williamson, Chair of GYPT, told Eastern Daily Press: "The trust received no support or subsidy from the local authority or other bodies.

"The regeneration benefits of such an asset are a huge drain on our resources and led trustees to put the building on the market.

"It is hoped that the gallery will, therefore, continue with a new owner."

The Yare Gallery opened in 2021 in a Grade II building that was purchased and restored in the early 2000s to create the Norfolk Nelson Museum, which closed in 2019. The property has gone up for sale for just under £300,000, and the funds will be used to support other local preservation trust projects.

DCMS restarts search for a new V&A chair

01 Feb 2024

Ministers have had to restart the process of recruiting a new chair for the V&A Museum, according to a report from Sky News.

It claims that Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has had to restart the search for a successor to Sir Nicholas Coleridge after the original frontrunner, Samir Shah, accepted the opportunity to Chair the BBC.

The original recruitment opened last April, with interviews scheduled for early July. Shah was named the government's choice for the new BBC Chairman in December.

Coleridge, who has been appointed Chair of Historic Royal Palaces, has been replaced on an interim basis by Nigel Webb.

Museum struggles to attract visitors after revamp

30 Jan 2024

Dorset Museum and Art Gallery needs to triple its current footfall to meet increased running costs following a £16.4m expansion.

Speaking to the BBC, Executive Director Clare Dixon said the organisation was facing a “critical time” as it has struggled to attract enough visitors to meet its costs since it reopened in 2021 after a two-year-long major reconstruction.

Dixon said Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, Brexit and the war in Ukraine had all impacted the museum’s finances.

She added: "The museum reopened in an unpredictable climate, with tourism plummeting and people not going out, so the impact that we hoped the transformation would have had obviously just didn't come to fruition.

"The building is incredible, the displays are beautiful, but the running costs are high.

"When you increase the size of a building, and you increase running costs, you need more people in to make it sustainable. This year is critical."

The museum was recently awarded a grant of £250k from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a further £150k, spread over three years, from Dorset Council. The money will be used to boost marketing and fund a rebrand, underpinning exhibition costs and supporting learning and events.


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