Data service to share museum records launches 

13 Nov 2023

A new service to gather and share object records from UK museums has launched. 

The Museums Data Service (MDS) has been developed to assemble data on museum collections, including location and opening times, summaries of collections and highlights, object records and exhibition text, but will not hold media assets.

Work on the project, a joint start-up by Art UK, Collections Trust and the University of Leicester, supported by funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, began in November 2022.

Training for early adopters of the programme will begin next month. MDS hopes to publish collection summaries for all 1,700 accredited museums by May 2024 and to have compiled all object records by 2033.

Collections Trust, funded by Arts Council England, is offering support to small organisations including Wolverhampton Museum, St Barbe Museum and the Royal Engineers Museum, to help them make the most of the new service. 

Museum closes as Art Workers for Palestine stage sit-in

10 Nov 2023

Protesters from Art Workers for Palestine Scotland have staged a sit-in at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow this afternoon (10 November).

The demonstration began shortly after lunchtime as dozens of activists sat in the art gallery with flags and banners.

Police have attended the scene, and visitors are not being admitted during the demonstration.

The protesters are calling upon members of the Scottish parliament to publicly demand an immediate ceasefire in Israel.

In a call out on their Instagram page ahead of the demonstration, which was due to end at 2.30pm, the protesters said: "The majority of arts and cultural institutions have been silent as we witness the ongoing genocide of Palestinians.

"We refuse to let the arts, culture and heritage sector to continue as if nothing is happening. No more business as usual in the arts."

Climate protesters target Science Museum Director 

Protesters from XR North East holding placards that say 'Science Museum funded by fossil fuels'
09 Nov 2023

Science Museum Director Sir Ian Blatchford was met by protestors as he attended the Museums Association annual conference.

159 sites added to Heritage at Risk register

09 Nov 2023

The register’s 25th anniversary lists a total of 4,871 entries of  heritage sites at risk, 48 fewer than last year.

Art Fund initiative studies impact of art on the brain

08 Nov 2023

An initiative developed by Art Fund is visualising the impact art displayed in museums and galleries has on people’s brains.

The experiment will see headsets that show how art affects brainwaves toured across museums and galleries in the UK. The devices have already been used at London’s Courtauld Gallery.

The headsets are connected to an electroencephalogram (EEG) monitor, which allows people’s brainwaves to be visualised on screens in 3D and in real time.

Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman told Sky News the experiment is the charity’s latest initiative to encourage visitors to return to museums and galleries.

"This is a way of just showing us exactly what happens in our brains and how exciting it is to actually be back in a museum context, back in a gallery, seeing real art, having that experience."

"What we're trying to do with this experiment is show how fantastic the museum experience is and encourage people back."

 British Museum thefts may have begun in 1993

08 Nov 2023

Further details of the theft of 2,000 Greek and Roman artefacts from the British Museum (BM) have emerged as the terms of a review of the organisation were published on its website yesterday.

The terms of reference for the British Museum Independent Collection, Security and Governance Review state that the “loss and/or damage of the affected objects occurred during the period from 1993 to 2022”, corresponding to the timeframe the alleged suspect was employed at the museum as a curator.

The document also names the review’s three co-chairs as Nigel Boardman (former trustee and lawyer), Lucy D'Orsi (Chief Constable of the British Transport Police) and Ian Karet (lawyer and charity law expert). 

They join senior BM employees David Bilson (Head of Security and Visitor Services), Mark Coady (Head of Internal Audit) and Thomas Harrison (Keeper of Greece and Rome) in investigating the thefts and liaising with the police.

The terms task the team with “identifying a complete list” of the missing items, noting “the ongoing detailed audit of affected objects is likely to take longer” than the scope of the review.  

In setting up procedures to recover the missing property, the terms suggest this could involve “civil litigation against persons suspected of possessing missing affected objects”.

The review will also examine the “failures of controls, processes or policies” that enabled the thefts, as well as the actions taken by the board in response to the allegations of losses.

The review report will be presented at the December meeting of trustees. It will also be shared with the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, and her Permanent Secretary, Susannah Storey.

It will, however, be “kept confidential” though the trustees reserve the right to publish it in whole or part with the approval of the Co-Chairs.

Calls for 'vigilance' after Just Stop Oil targets National Gallery

Protestors attacking a painting at the National Gallery
06 Nov 2023

Protestors from the Just Stop Oil campaign group have attacked the Rokeby Venus painting at the National Gallery.

Museums agree joint action on climate change

06 Nov 2023

Museums across the country have made a joint commitment to take collective action on the climate crisis at the UK’s first-ever Museum Cop.

Attendees at a conference held at Tate Modern last week included delegates from museums and organisations from Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield and York, as well as national bodies from England, Wales and Scotland.

In a statement, museum leaders acknowledged a “responsibility to speak out about the climate and biodiversity crisis” as “institutions with a long-term view.”

It said museum leaders feel they have an "ethical obligation" to take action to alleviate the damage of climate change and are committed to using collections, programmes and exhibitions “to engage audiences with the climate crisis and inspire them to take positive action”. 

The agreement also included pledges to manage collections sustainably while developing and implementing decarbonisation plans and increasing biodiversity in museums’ green spaces.

As well as urging UK politicians and businesses to accelerate action on climate change, the conference made a series of recommendations, including changes to planning laws to improve the long-term viability of heritage buildings and for environmental best practices to be taught on sector-related courses and apprenticeships.

Nick Merriman, Chief Executive of the Horniman Museum and Chair of the Cop, said: “The fact that the whole museum sector has come together to stress the urgency for action is hugely significant. We will now work together to implement the actions we have agreed.”

Plans for £25m heritage railway project revealed

CGI image of Barnsley Council's plans for a new heritage railway destination
06 Nov 2023

Plans to transform a former Yorkshire ironworks have been unveiled by Barnsley Council as it explores funding for the £25m project.

Heritage sector receives over £1m to tackle workforce issues

06 Nov 2023

The National Lottery Heritage Innovation Fund has announced 17 organisations that will benefit from a share of £1.17m of funding to explore how challenges facing the sector’s workforce can be overcome.

The grants, worth between £50,000 and £75,000, will support a staff member for up to 12 months to test solutions for issues ranging from recruitment and retention of volunteers and heritage skills shortages to attracting young people to the sector and improving digital products and capacity.

This testing phase is the second of the programme’s three stages, which started with 34 organisations. Of these, 17 will progress to the test phase, while a third phase is planned for late 2024.

Projects moving to the second stage include the British Film Institute, which will test new entry routes to film conservation and the role of formal accreditation in professionalising the practice.

Meanwhile, Hampshire Cultural Trust will look at different approaches to creating paid career pathways for volunteers across heritage organisations.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "I'm delighted to see these 17 projects progress to the next stage. The cohort approach has already led to some impressive development of skills, confidence and capabilities – I'm excited for what they come up with next.

"Investing in innovation supports organisational sustainability, one of our four investment principles, and will ensure that heritage is valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future."
 

Easter opening date for £27m Perth Museum

25 Oct 2023

A new museum in Perth costing £27m has been given an official opening date for 2024.

Perth Museum will open after a multi-million-pound refurbishment of the former city hall over Easter weekend next year.

Partially funded by £10m of UK Government investment through the Tay Cities Deal and by Perth and Kinross Council, the museum will showcase Perth’s place in ancient and modern Scotland as the nation’s first capital.

Its collection will include the Stone of Destiny, used in King Charles's coronation, and a sword belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie, which returns to Scotland for the first time since being made in Perth in 1739.

Councillor Grant Laing, Leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said: “Perth Museum will be a landmark attraction that brings Scotland’s history to life and is the culmination of our long-term cultural regeneration vision for Perth.

“It will significantly increase visitors from across the UK and internationally. It has created new skills and employment opportunities, and it will ignite our sense of civic pride in our beautiful and historic city.”
 

Glasgow museums shut amid staff strikes

24 Oct 2023

Museums in Glasgow are closed this week due to industrial action taken by staff over plans to cut jobs.

Members of Unison working in Glasgow museums and collections are taking part in five days of strikes, ending on Saturday (28 October), impacting flagship institutions, including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.

Unison says that Glasgow Life, an arm's-length organisation that runs the city's art, leisure and culture sector on behalf of the council, proposes 38 job cuts in specialist roles, including gallery curators and conservators.

The union has warned the cuts to conservators could result in a "high-profile accident" to items in the £1.4bn Glasgow Museum collection. "Collections do not look after themselves," a union spokesperson said.

"Deep cleaning of display venues by specialist conservation staff will greatly reduce or completely disappear. World-class textiles at the Burrell Collection, taxidermy specimens at Kelvingrove and other vulnerable organic objects will be at particular risk of pest damage without regular, vigilant cleaning by highly-trained specialists."

Defending the cuts, Glasgow Life said it had to make £7.1m of savings after cuts to its budget from Glasgow City Council which is grappling with a £50m deficit.

Glasgow Life said: “We recognise how valued our museums and collections are to Glasgow’s communities and the city’s international profile, and we understand the concern any changes may cause.

"Wherever possible, we have identified ways of making savings by reducing, rather than losing Glasgow Life services programmes and events; retaining the potential to rebuild them in the future."

"However, we have been saying for some time now that the savings we are making this year add up to around 9% of our annual service fee from the Council and ensure none of our facilities will have to close."

Museum closes due to Storm Babet floods

24 Oct 2023

The Museum of Making in Derby will be closed after it suffered "significant" damage from flooding caused by Storm Babet.

Derby Museums said the building was exposed to "substantial" quantities of water, with the museum closed while insurers are called in to assess the damage.

The museum's collections are undamaged, as the majority are housed on the upper floors of the building. 

Tony Butler, executive director of Derby Museums, said: "We were all devastated to wake up to the floods on Saturday morning. 

"Our team worked hard to secure the Museum of Making and protect our collections, which I am pleased to say are safe and undamaged.

"We are sorry to be closed to the public in the coming days. I’d like to thank our fantastic supporters, both individuals and the local business community; as always, we have been overwhelmed by your love and appreciation for Derby Museums."
 

British Museum digitises collection to prevent thefts

18 Oct 2023

The British Museum has announced plans to digitise its collection in response to the stolen artefacts scandal that has embroiled the institution.

A five-year plan to digitise the museum’s collection and make it available online will help “improve security”, according to the museum's Interim Director, Sir Mark Jones.

Appearing before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Wednesday (18 October) he said:  “It is my belief that the single most important response to the thefts is to increase access because the better a collection is known - and the more it is used - the sooner any absences are noticed.

"So that's why, rather than locking the collection away, we want to make it the most enjoyed, used and seen in the world.”

The process of digitising the collection is already underway and involves the uploading or upgrading of 2.4 million records. 

The British Museum’s Chair of Trustees, George Osborne, said the organisation had been “victims of an inside job” when around 2,000 items from its collection were revealed to be missing in August, leading to the dismissal of a Senior Curator. 

“There are lots of lessons to be learnt," said Osbourne. "We have changed our whistleblowing code, changed our policy on thefts... tightened up security on thefts." 

The museum has also announced plans for enhanced access to study rooms, where members of the public and academics can view items from the collection by appointment.

Osbourne revealed that the museum will acknowledge the thefts in an exhibit of the missing items, 350 of which have been recovered so far. 

Glasgow museums says £3m sculpture is missing

17 Oct 2023

A statue thought to be worth £3m is currently “unlocated” in Glasgow’s collections, museum officials have said.

The plaster sculpture, by French sculptor Auguste Rodine, was bought by Glasgow Museum from the artist in 1901.

Glasgow Life, the charity responsible for running the city’s museums, says it was exhibited in Kelvingrove Park in 1941 but is now listed as “unlocated”.

It is one of around 1,750 items currently listed as missing or stolen.

According to a report from The Times, the missing inventory also includes gold coins linked to 16th century monarch Queen Mary I of Scotland.

There has been increased scrutiny on missing artefacts from the reserves of UK museums since the British Museum acknowledged the theft of thousands of items.

Earlier this month, an investigation by the BBC found Museum Wales, the institution managing seven national museum in Wales, is missing almost 2,000 items.

Last week, Museums Association Director Sharon Heal said the recent media coverage of missing items is “misleading and damaging to the reputation of museums”.

“It is unsurprising that, with collections amounting to tens of millions of items that have been collected over many decades, some items might be missing or unaccounted for.”

Museum Wales pay off 'may have breached law'

Exterior view of Cardiff's National Museum
16 Oct 2023

Auditor says a £325,698 settlement with former Director General may have breached the requirements of charity law.

Museum alters trans exhibit amid defamation concerns

The front entrance of Weston Museum
16 Oct 2023

Weston Museum said it removed the wording from an exhibition on trans issues after concerns were raised that it could be perceived as defamatory.

Liverpool museum evacuated by police bomb squad

13 Oct 2023

The Museum of Liverpool was evacuated on Tuesday (10 October) following reports that a World War Two “training device” was found.

A police bomb disposal unit was called to the Pier Head venue at 10.50 a.m. after concerns were raised about a “suspicious item” found inside the building.

The museum was temporarily closed as a precaution while further examinations took place but has since reopened. 

Police deemed the item, found to be an old WWII training device, safe and said it posed no risk to the public.

The Institute of Public Policy Research North Think Tank had been due to hold an event at the museum as part of the Labour Party Conference but had to relocate to Tate Liverpool.

Vagina Museum to reopen after exceeding fundraising target

10 Oct 2023

London’s Vagina Museum will reopen on 4 November after a successful fundraising drive.

The museum was forced to close its doors in February after its property guardianship ended.

It has relocated to multi-storey premises in Bethnal Green after surpassing an £85,000 fundraising target with donations from more than 2,500 people.

Its new home features three gallery spaces. The ground floor will house temporary exhibitions, while a pair of upstairs galleries will feature a permanent exhibition and community gallery.

When the museum reopens, initially only the ground floor will be accessible as lift access is not yet available.

The museum’s Head of Communications, Zoe Williams, told The Guardian fundraising efforts had been a “make or break scenario”.

“We genuinely didn’t know how successful it would be, especially in the cost-of-living crisis when so many people in our community are really feeling the pinch. It’s just wonderful.”

Heritage Fund selects first areas for place-based funding

09 Oct 2023

Funder to offer ringfenced support to 20 towns, cities and landscapes across the UK as part of its new 10-year strategy.

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