Everybody is a winner

A man looking at an artwork
29 Jan 2024

Art Fund has launched guidance on how UK museums, galleries, libraries and archives can acquire top quality objects for free or for much less than their market value – and how the donor/seller benefits too, as Nancy Saul explains.

East London museum awarded £800k for restoration

24 Jan 2024

Valence House Museum and Gardens in Dagenham will undergo £800k improvement works after securing external investment.

The restoration is backed by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Arts Council England’s Museum Estates Development Fund, with match funding from Barking and Dagenham Council.

The project includes conservation works in the medieval moated enclosure to restore natural habitats and biodiversity, roof repair and conservation investigations into the medieval fabric of the Grade II* listed building. 

Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement said: “Barking and Dagenham is a growing destination with a diverse arts and culture offer, and we recognise the huge contribution the sector makes to our entire community.

“Our borough’s heritage gems... are much loved by the community, and despite the financial pressures we, like councils up and down the country, are facing, we’re committed to ensuring our heritage sites remain available for local people to enjoy.

“It’s really important we continue to secure external funding to invest in these important sites and ensure a wide range of arts and culture activity to meet the needs of not just the few, but the many.”

Museum re-opens in former bank

23 Jan 2024

Chatteris Museum in Cambridgeshire is reopening in a former Barclays bank branch two years after moving out of its old premises, having outgrown it.

The former museum building, shared with the town council offices, closed in 2021. The BBC reports that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority purchased its new home for £770,000.

An official opening has been planned for May, but it is open three days a week until then on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Collections Manager Andrew Spooner said: "We are really excited to have this fabulous space. It is a classic early Victorian, Georgian architectural delight built in 1840, and a Barclays bank since 1921. The bank shut in 2019, but people still refer to the building as 'Barclays'.

"We have 24 very keen volunteers, and thanks to various grants, including £97,000 from the National Lottery, we hope to keep the legacy and history of this wonderful town alive for future generations."

Collections Trust reviews weblinks policy after Hamas reference

The title page of the inclusive terminology glossary against the background of Paintings in The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
22 Jan 2024

Collections Trust has deleted a link to a terminology guide from its website following accusations that a section on Palestine described Hamas as 'freedom fighters'.

Scottish government commits £200,000 to 'slavery museum'

The interior of the Museum of Scotland
22 Jan 2024

All six recommendations of independent steering group, set up to advise on how museums and galleries can better reflect the country’s role in empire, colonialism and historic slavery are accepted by Scottish government.

Council seeks reallocation of government cash to save arts centre

22 Jan 2024

Woking Council will ask the government if it can use money provided for digital strategy to keep an arts centre open.

The BBC reports that the cash-strapped local authority was given £1m as part of the government's UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022 but now wants to reallocate £600,000 of that for other purposes, including £130,000 to keep The Lightbox museum and gallery open.

Under the plans, £30,000 would also be given to Citizen's Advice to help plan for the future, and £101,000 would be allocated to improving footpaths and car parks in outdoor spaces.

Will Forster, Deputy Leader at Woking Council, said the move would help minimise the impact of the council's financial position on communities and local businesses.

He added: "We've had to make some really tough decisions this year. I'm glad that by utilising this funding sensibly, we can show organisations like The Lightbox and Citizen's Advice that we value them and are willing to do everything within our gift to support them."

The decision to reallocate the money to six priority projects was made at a council meeting last Thursday (18 January), and government approval will now be sought.

Activists urge architects to boycott British Museum redesign

22 Jan 2024

Environmental campaigners are calling on architects not to take part in a contest to redesign around a third of the British Museum following a controversial £50m sponsorship deal with BP that will fund the redevelopment.

The boycott is backed by the Architects Declare network, the Section of Architectural Workers trade union, now part of Unite, and Future Architects Front (FAF).

A spokesperson for FAF told the Architects Journal: "We fully support calls for architects to reject commissions funded with oil money.

"In the context of cascading ecological collapse, it is completely indefensible for architects to knowingly work with the most blatant perpetrators of climate destruction. Such donations by oil companies are transparent acts of reputation washing, and any architect with the slightest pretence of social concern must refuse to become complicit."

Scrapping free entry to Welsh museums ‘inevitable’

19 Jan 2024

The introduction of admission fees at all national museum sites in Wales due to “critical” financial pressures has an “air of inevitability”, a government committee has heard.

Deputy Minister for Culture Dawn Bowden told the Senedd’s culture committee that ending free entry was being considered as a way to generate income in the face of budget constraints.

In December, the Welsh government revealed plans for a curtailed cultural budget, handing a £3m cut to the National Museums of Wales and a 10.5% drop in funding to Arts Council Wales, suggesting cultural bodies need to "explore other sources of income".

Speaking at the culture committee, Plaid Cymru’s Llŷr Gruffydd said there was an air of inevitability about the introduction of entry charges.

Bowden told ministers: “It is not something that we would be considering or asking the museum to look at and to consider if it were not in a critical situation.

“The budget situation was such that this was an option that had to be on the table.

“Now, I'm not saying that that's where we will end up, but it would not be responsible of me to rule that out at this stage or to suggest to the museum they shouldn't be exploring that.”

V&A Dundee halves its major exhibit output to cut costs

18 Jan 2024

V&A Dundee will reduce the number of major exhibitions it stages each year as part of “mitigating measures” to cut costs.

The move means the Scottish design museum will host only one annual paid exhibition.

A new report sent to the Scottish government by the organisation confirmed that the programming change, first introduced on a trial basis in 2022 in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, will become permanent for the foreseeable future.

The reduction in exhibits is part of a range of measures designed to financially bolster the venue in what it describes as a “volatile operating environment”. Other actions include covering operational costs from financial reserves and cutting overall spending.

In comments to the Scottish parliament last week, V&A Dundee director Leonie Bell said that over the previous five years, the museum had endured “year on year of mitigating measures”, leading to difficulties “to plan beyond a year ahead”.

An independent report published in September 2023 estimated that V&A Dundee had generated £304m for the Scottish economy in the five years since it opened.

The venue receives most of its funding from the Scottish government, which recently increased its grant for 2024/25 by £800,000, taking it to £3.8m.

Natural heritage sites to share £15.6m of funding

A group of walkers gathered on a hill in the Peak District
16 Jan 2024

National Lottery Heritage Fund will introduce a landscape and nature-focused initiative later this year as part of its 10-year strategy.

Scottish museums share £400,000 development funding

15 Jan 2024

Museums Galleries Scotland has awarded grants worth £420,000 to nine projects via the Museum Development Fund. 

The projects include North Lanarkshire’s Museums & Collections, which will collaborate with local communities impacted by the legacies of slavery and empire to create more inclusive heritage spaces and develop collections knowledge. 

Meanwhile, Historylinks Museum in Dornoch will launch a People’s Gallery to tell the stories of ordinary people who have contributed to the history and heritage of the town. It will be co-curated by the community and include participation from schools and local clubs.

Elsewhere, Museum nan Eilean will support the international interest in the heritage of the Outer Hebrides and increase the sustainability of the Museum Service through holding an Emigration Conference. 

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said: “We’re delighted to fund nine varied projects from museums across Scotland. 

"These projects represent the work the sector is undertaking in remaining responsive to the needs of their community, better representing stories from people in Scotland and across the world, and contributing to a sustainable tourist experience.”

Cornwall museum awarded £2.1m Levelling Up support

Exterior of Royal Cornwall Museum, River Street, Truro, Cornwall - June 2022
15 Jan 2024

Successful grant bid for the Royal Cornwall Museum comes less than two years after it faced closure following a loss of council support.

Consultation on future of Leeds museum launches

10 Jan 2024

Leeds City Council has launched a public consultation on proposals to end its lease on the site of a local heritage museum.

The Thwaite Watermill Museum, which is owned by Canal and River Trust and managed by Leeds Museums and Galleries, told the Yorkshire Evening Post it faces closure if the lease is terminated, as it cannot afford to take over the running of the building.

A consultation, which concludes on 19 January, asks users when they last visited the museum as well as their thoughts on the future of the site and if they think it should be handed back to Canal and River Trust.

Leeds City Council, which is one of dozens of local authorities across the country making severe budget cuts, said that the museum, located on an island in the River Aire, was costly to maintain. 

A council spokesperson said: “Leeds City Council have operated Thwaite Watermill as a heritage attraction since 1990. Although visitor satisfaction is high, the site has always had low visitor figures, with 9,502 having visited Thwaite Watermill in 2022.

“There are high maintenance costs linked to managing historic buildings of this nature, coupled with challenging environmental issues with the site prone to flooding. Finding the funds to maintain Thwaite Watermill has and will continue to be a challenge.”

In December 2023, Leeds Council put forward a raft of cost-cutting measures designed to save £58.4m over the next 12 months, alongside £7.4m of previously agreed savings.

More than 1,700 artefacts 'missing' from DCMS-funded museums

10 Jan 2024

Freedom of Information requests have revealed more than 1,700 artefacts are missing from publicly funded museums and art galleries in England.

The FOI requests submitted by the Press Association asked organisations that receive funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for details on objects that have gone missing over the past 20 years.

The National Portrait Gallery reported 45 "not located" items - but said they were not missing or stolen.

"The bulk of the items currently not located are photographic negatives, and for the majority of those, the image has been digitally scanned and is available to the public as part of our online collections database," the gallery said.

Meanwhile, V&A noted 180 missing objects. A spokesperson said: “This does not mean these objects have been stolen or lost; it might mean, for example, that a catalogue entry has not been updated after a collection move. Items are regularly recovered as a result of this process".

Around 550 artefacts are missing from Imperial War Museum, with the institution describing them as “typically low-value, mass-produced items".

A museum spokesman said the items "date from many years or even decades ago, long before our current collections management systems were put in place". 

The Natural History Museum said it had experienced “just 23 instances of lost or missing items from a collection of 80 million, limited to small things like teeth, fish and frozen animal tissue.” 

A spokesperson said: “We have robust security measures in place which we regularly review. As a world-leading science centre, it's important that researchers from around the world have access to our collection to help find solutions to the planetary emergency."

Seven items were absent from the Horniman Museum, which said it has "reviewed" security in light of thefts at the British Museum "as a precautionary measure".

The theft of around 1,500 Greek and Roman objects by a British Museum employee between 1993 and 2022 emerged in August last year, causing considerable reputational damage to the organisation.

The thefts were mainly of unregistered items – gems and jewellery. The museum said that as of December 2023, 351 items have been returned, with 300 further missing items identified.

Hampshire Council cuts puts cultural organisations at risk

Curtis Museum, Alton
10 Jan 2024

Hampshire Cultural Trust said that four of its museums and an arts centre could be forced to shut their doors within 12 months.

Thousands sign petition against Middlesbrough museum closure

09 Jan 2024

Around 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for Middlesbrough Council to keep the town's Captain Cook Birthplace Museum open.

The BBC reports that the local authority has proposed shutting the museum or handing responsibility over to another operator as part of efforts to save millions of pounds and avoid bankruptcy.

Martin Peagram, Chair of the Captain Cook Birthplace Trust, which launched the petition, said: "In 2028, it's the 300th anniversary of the birth of possibly the most famous person to come from this area. He's internationally renowned.

"We all know councils are under pressure with budgets [but] the Captain Cook Birthplace Trust regard this [proposal] as a tragedy.

"Thousands of schoolchildren have been through there over the years, learning about Captain Cook and about countries around the world.

"We know the issues the council face are real, but the museum is critical for people's perceptions of Middlesbrough and the commercial, cultural and educational opportunities it brings."

A public consultation on the budget proposals runs until 18 January.

DCMS consults public on inventory of 'intangible' culture

08 Jan 2024

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched an online consultation on the government's plans to ratify the UNESCO 2003 Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

The consultation seeks responses from the public to help it define and create an “inventory” of UK heritage that is “living and practised”. Intangible heritage can include oral traditions and expressions, including language, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe and traditional craftsmanship. 

Similar to the World Heritage List, UNESCO maintains a global list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In its endorsement of the convention, the government says it will not initially seek to nominate items to this list and instead create its own inventory. 

The government says this will “[raise] awareness of all the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK…to lift all rather than list a few with UNESCO”.

DCMS proposes creating inventories for the four nations and overseas territories, which will be collated into a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK.

Communities, groups or individuals can submit items to be added to the inventory, reflecting traditions from anywhere in the world and any period currently practised in the UK. Submissions will then be subject to a “light-touch approvals process”, with new entries expected to be announced quarterly.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson, said: “The UK is rich in traditions which are passed down from generation to generation. These crafts, customs, and celebrations have helped to shape our communities and bring people together, who continue to shape them in turn.

“By ratifying this convention, we will be able to celebrate treasured traditions from every corner of the UK, support the people who practise them, and ensure they are passed down for future generations to enjoy.”

Peers support return of Parthenon sculptures

19 Dec 2023

Former Brexit negotiator is among those calling for artefacts to be returned, arguing it should be on the condition of a new cultural partnership between the UK and Greece. 

British Museum signs controversial £50m deal with oil giants BP

BP petrol station sign
19 Dec 2023

New 10-year partnership with BP will support transformation described by museum as 'one of the most significant cultural redevelopment projects ever undertaken'.

Council extends museum lease to secure its future

14 Dec 2023

Worcester Council has extended the lease of a historic museum in the city to 999 years to help secure its long-term future.

Officials hope that the “unusual” extension will allow staff at the Tudor House Museum to make long-term plans.

A report for the authority’s policy and resources committee warns that the extension can not be used to set a precedent for other council leases.

Paul Griffith, chairman of Worcester Municipal Charities, which will hold the new lease, said the extension would give the two charities that run the museum, Worcester Heritage and Amenity Trust, the confidence to continue investing time and money.

"We already have plans to build a new visitors and education centre behind the museum and need to start raising the funds to pay for it," he added.


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