British Museum urged to remove BP name

08 Aug 2023

More than 80 people from heritage, arts and climate backgrounds have written an open letter to the British Museum calling on it to remove BP’s name from its lecture theatre.

The move would send “a powerful message” about fossil fuel sponsorship, supporters said, calling on the museum’s director Hartwig Fischer to enact the change before he steps down next year.

Fischer announced the decision to resign his eight-year role last month, stating that he wanted to focus on the “rescue and preservation of cultural heritage in times of climate crisis, conflict, war and violence”, the Guardian reported.

The museum chose not to renew its 27-year sponsorship deal with the energy firm this year, stating that there were “no other contracts or agreements in effect between the museum and BP”.

Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Shakespeare Company, Scottish Ballet and Royal Opera House have all ended funding partnerships with the company in recent years, to the approval of environmental campaigners.

Signatories calling on Fischer to change the name of the theatre include photographer Nan Goldin, climate scientist Bill McGuire, writer Gaia Vince, climate justice activist and mental health advocate Tori Tsui, the director of the Brunel Museum Katherine McAlpine and archaeologist and author David Wengrow.

“Just as cultural institutions around the world have removed the Sackler family name as evidence of the harmful ways their money was made came to light, the damning evidence of BP’s past – and present – can no longer be ignored,” they wrote to Fischer in a letter organised by Culture Unstained.

“Renaming the lecture theatre would send a powerful message about the future the museum wants to see… You would be demonstrating the kind of climate leadership that is now so urgently needed.”

The letter acknowledged that its writers welcomed the news that the museum’s existing sponsorship deal with BP had come to an end this year and urged Fischer to “pledge that the museum will accept no further funding from sponsors or donors involved in fossil fuel production”.

Welsh heritage sites receive £4.1m boost

Gwrych Castle with foliage in the foreground
07 Aug 2023

National Heritage Memorial Fund awards money to several heritage sites in Wales that were affected by the Covid pandemic.

Art Fund invests in touring exhibitions

07 Aug 2023

Art Fund is investing in programmes designed to support museums and galleries through touring and partnership working on exhibitions.

The Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund will continue for another three years following a £1m grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation, taking the partnership to its 10th anniversary in 2027. 

The scheme enables smaller museums to borrow significant works from major collections.

Meanwhile, a new UK-wide programme that will engage and involve underrepresented audiences with museum collections through touring exhibitions, Going Places, is launching its first phase this month.

The scheme will establish five networks of three to five small to mid-sized museums, with each network developing bespoke touring exhibitions.

The initiative will sit alongside other Art Fund-supported initiatives such as ARTIST ROOMS, which presents the work of high-profile international artists in solo exhibitions drawn from a national touring collection jointly owned by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland.

“Through our growing range of support for collaborative initiatives, Art Fund recognises the value of touring and sharing collections as one of the most inclusive and sustainable ways of bringing art to new audiences,” Director Jenny Waldman said.

ANGUSalive Museums awarded £52k for World Culture project

04 Aug 2023

ANGUSalive Museums have been awarded £52,646 in funding from Museums Galleries Scotland for their upcoming World Cultures Project. 

The two-year project aims to appropriately catalogue, research and safely store Angus Council’s large and historic ethnography collection. 

It will culminate in a co-curated exhibition, scheduled to take place in autumn 2025, and educational resource for schools produced in collaboration with local minority and advocacy groups.

The funding will cover conservation and exhibition costs as well as facilitating the appointment of a Curatorial Assistant who will work on the project four days a week.

As part of the project there will be discussions relating to colonialism and the British Empire in museum collections and the potential repatriation of objects.

“We are delighted to have been awarded this funding as not only will it allow us to research an under-documented area of our collection, but we will also be able to join global museum conversations about repatriation and identify ethical issues relating to the provenance of these objects,” said Emma Gilliland, Museums & Galleries Collections Lead.
 
“We’re looking forward to developing a number of community partnerships to explore this work further. Montrose Museum was one of the first purpose-built museums in Scotland and began collecting this type of material from the 1830s, so it is appropriate that it will host our World Cultures Exhibition.”
 

English Heritage to introduce ‘dress up’ for adults

02 Aug 2023

Historical ‘dress up’ costumes aimed at adult visitors are due to be introduced at 11 English Heritage sites this summer.

The move is in response to research commissioned by the charity and conducted by the University of Kent that found adults have more active imaginations than children.

The study “directly refutes the commonly held belief that we become less imaginative as we get older”, the charity said.

Researchers from the university’s School of Psychology asked more than 470 people aged between four and 81 to imagine how unfamiliar historical objects could have been used. 

The answers were assessed based on characteristics including the number of unique responses and how close the guesses were to the object’s actual function.

As age increased, people were more likely to imagine uses that were closer to the actual function of the objects, but they were also more likely to give original answers and to provide more detail.

Meanwhile, adolescents and young adults came up with a larger number of suggestions spanning a wider range of categories than other age groups, suggesting that different age groups have different imaginative strengths, researchers said.

The research “shows that our imaginations continue to grow and change, even throughout adulthood, with the over 60s actually showing the most originality,” said Dr Angela Nyhout, Assistant Professor at the University of Kent’s School of Psychology, who led the research team.

“Adults’ imaginations can be just as vivid as children’s, but what they already know about the world constrains their imagination in some cases and enhances it in others. We just need the freedom of the right environment and opportunity to explore the limits of our imagination, and historical places are a perfect place to do this.”

English Heritage has used these findings to inform its One Extraordinary Summer events programme, for which it will introduce both hands-on history sessions and historical adult dress-up opportunities, with costumes including Roman togas, Medieval chainmail, Victorian suits and Tudor gowns, as well as WWII uniforms. 

At Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula, adult visitors will be invited to don vampire capes and accessories.

The 11 sites offering the costume will be Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, Boscobel in Shropshire, Corbridge Roman Town in Northumberland, Dover Castle in Kent, Eltham Palace in London, Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, Witley Court in Worcestershire, Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire and Wrest Park in Bedfordshire.

Tate Liverpool to temporarily relocate to RIBA North 

02 Aug 2023

Tate Liverpool will move its operations to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) when major redevelopment work gets under way in October, it has been announced.

The gallery said it will collaborate with RIBA on a programme of temporary exhibitions, family activities, public talks and events inspired by both organisations’ collections, with a focus on art, architecture and ecology.

During the £29.7m “once-in-a-generation renewal”, the gallery will also set up a café and shop at the venue, which is located close to the gallery on the Liverpool waterfront.

“Although our usual home will be undergoing a transformation, we will still be able to share the wonderful art from the Tate collection and provide family activity to visitors alongside our much-loved shop and café offer,” said Helen Legg, Tate Liverpool’s Director.

Dr Valerie Vaughan-Dick, Chief Executive of RIBA, said that the organisation’s members, visitors and the local community would benefit from the partnership, “as will new audiences who will be able to experience and enjoy RIBA’s world-class collections”.
 

Heritage Fund to provide £1bn over three years

01 Aug 2023

The UK’s largest funder of heritage sets out its priorities for the first part of its new 10-year strategy.

Protests over proposed Glasgow Life staff cuts

31 Jul 2023

Demonstrations to take place at Glasgow museums against staff cuts as union demands government help.

Jewish Museum London closes its doors

31 Jul 2023

The Jewish Museum in London has closed its current site in Camden as part of plans to sell the building and reopen in a new location.

Trustees of the museum, which receives £224,000 a year from Arts Council England (ACE) as part of the National Portfolio for 2023-26 announced the plans in early June. 

It hopes to reopen in a larger new home within the next five years.

Nick Viner, chair of trustees, told the BBC: "It's been an incredibly tough decision, but the museum has always found it difficult to be financially sustainable even though it's had some huge success with exhibitions.

"We are planning to do several temporary displays in London and beyond all whilst we think about how we can engage communities online with our collections."

Young V&A shop to carry LGBTQ+ books

Young V&A shop
27 Jul 2023

The museum says it has also "identified replacement objects for the Young V&A Design Gallery that highlight trans themes", as PCS union members call for the removed books and posters to be reinstated.

Heritage Alliance shares manifesto for policy change

Conwy Castle
24 Jul 2023

Policy suggestions include VAT cuts on repairs, disincentives to demolition and a National Retrofit Strategy to meet net zero targets.

National Trust completes tapestry renovation project

24 Jul 2023

The National Trust has announced the completion of a £1.7m, 24-year-long project to restore a set of 16th century tapestries.

The 13 tapestries were removed from Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire in 1999 for conservation treatment. The final late-Renaissance tapestry has now been returned to the hall.

The Gideon tapestries are the largest surviving set in the UK. They measure nearly six metres high and more than 70 metres in length.

Each tapestry took more than two years to restore. The process included vacuum cleaning and documenting each tapestry in detail, before sending them to Belgium for specialist wet cleaning.

Conservators working with the National Trust used specialist conservation stitching to replace damaged areas and strengthen the structure of the tapestries, as well as improving the appearances of 20th century reweaving.

To maintain consistency, they used yarns that were hand-dyed following ‘recipes books’ that provided instructions for creating bespoke colours. They also followed ‘stitch guides’ that helped to ensure new stitching was correctly spaced to create visual harmony but could still be differentiated from the original stitches.

“It is the largest tapestry conservation project ever undertaken by the National Trust and everyone at the studio has been involved at some point,” said Textile Conservator Elaine Owers, who began working on the project as an intern in 2008, before progressing to project manage some of the largest tapestries.

“There is a real sense of pride as we see the final tapestry hung in position.”

The conservation project has secured the future of the tapestries for at least a century, Textile Conservator Yoko Hanegreefs said.

Lottery grant a 'crucial moment' for Milton Keynes Gallery

19 Jul 2023

A Lottery grant of almost a quarter of a million pounds is a “crucial moment” in the history of Milton Keynes Museum, its director says.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund award of £222,850 will be used to develop new displays at the independent museum, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The displays will highlight the history of Milton Keynes, from early plans to the stories of local people. 

Museum Director Bill Griffiths said: “It will be a crucial moment in the development of the museum, which is a jewel in the crown of the new city.

“It brings us so much closer to sharing Milton Keynes' rich history – both ancient and modern – with people from all over the country and beyond.”

He added: “Milton Keynes is a special place with a special story, and this grant will take us nearer our dream of telling that story in glorious detail. We are thrilled.”

Museum of Cardiff to remain at current site

17 Jul 2023

The Museum of Cardiff will remain in its current location for the next five years although concerns have been raised about its long-term future.

The museum had been at risk of closing as a physical space and being turned into a mobile attraction when the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) moved into the Old Library building last year.

But following a lease agreement between Cardiff Council and the RWCMD, the museum will continue to operate in the building. 

It is hoped the agreement will give sufficient time and stability for the museum, stakeholders and the council to fully examine options and undertake feasibility assessments for any future move.

The Museums Association welcomed the news but said "significant concerns" remain about the museum’s long-term future.

Joshua Robertson, Policy Officer for the Museums Association, said: “We welcome the temporary stay-of-execution and the short-term stability that this provides [...] The Museum of Cardiff is a thriving cultural asset, which has a strong track record of community participation and engagement and is vital to the cultural life of the city.

“However, we have significant concerns surrounding the future of the museum as a permanent venue is yet to be found. We will continue to work with our external partners across Wales and beyond to advocate for a permanent venue for the museum, and a long-term funding strategy to ensure future success for the Museum of Cardiff.”

Wales details plans for its contemporary art collection

13 Jul 2023

The Welsh Government has shared plans to showcase Wales’ national contemporary art collection in galleries across the country.

Arts Council of Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru and the National Library of Wales will collaborate on sharing the work across the network of venues which include Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Newport Museum & Art Gallery.

Meanwhile, a digital platform, featuring around 25,000 images, has been launched to support the initiative, while plans to develop an anchor gallery acting as a prominent public face for the national contemporary art gallery continue.

Proposals for a national contemporary art gallery were first explored in 2018 and committed to in the government’s draft budget in 2021. 

Work is currently underway to find a host for the anchor gallery, with local authorities in Wrexham, Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Cardiff being invited to develop their plans for the space further.

“The national collection belongs to everyone in Wales,” Deputy Arts Minister Dawn Bowden said.

“The new model will allow people to explore the collection within their own communities, whilst also ensuring more people across Wales, the UK and even internationally can have improved access to the national collection.”

“It will help to boost the visitor economy, support local businesses and jobs, and put Wales on the map internationally.”

High streets: The future is now

Street Fest in Gloucester on 1 July 2023. Giant puppet Farrah the Fox parades the streets with Sabrina, a puppet representing the Spirit of the River Severn, created in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts. 
12 Jul 2023

More than half of England’s high streets were built over a century ago, with buildings now falling into disrepair. Ellen Harrison shares how culture-led regeneration is changing them for the better. 

British Museum faces copyright infringement claim

Exterior view of the British Museum
11 Jul 2023

Crowd Justice campaign by Vancouver-based poet and translator Yilin Wang successfully reaches target to initiate court proceedings against British Museum.

Pay offer sees British Museum strike called off

11 Jul 2023

A scheduled six-day strike by staff at the British Museum has been called off after a new pay offer was made.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union said it had suspended the strike, due to begin today, after the museum presented it with an offer that "addresses the most pressing concerns of its members".

It said that although the offer falls short of meeting the union's entire claim, it includes significant concessions including a a cost-of-living payment exceeding £1,500 for most members.

The museum has also said that all staff will receive at least the London Living Wage (LLW), and has offered a percentage increase for all other staff beyond the civil service pay remit guidance.

PCS said the overall award, including both consolidated and non-consolidated elements, amounts to approximately 14% for the lowest-paid members of PCS. 

The offer is yet to be accepted and negotiations with the British Museum are set to continue.

Mary Doolin, PCS Full-time Officer, said: “Strike action is always considered a last resort. 

"The decision to suspend the strike demonstrates PCS' willingness to engage in dialogue when reasonable offers are made by employers."

Museum opens Gypsy and Traveller gallery

10 Jul 2023

Hull’s Streetlife Museum has opened a new gallery celebrating local Gypsy and Traveller heritage.

Funded by Arts Council England, the display has been created alongside members of the local Gypsy and Traveller communities, and support from York Travellers Trust.

Robin Diaper, Curator at Hull Maritime Yorkshire, which has led on the project, said it has been “a great opportunity to bring a previously hidden history into our galleries”. 

“Once we started looking and learning from our partners we found that connections to Gypsy and Traveller history ran deep in Hull and surrounding regions,” he said. 

“With the strong connection to horses as well, the upstairs galleries at Streetlife were the natural home for this project. 

“We’re extremely grateful to all contributors and their generosity in sharing this heritage.”

Violet Cannon, Chief Executive of York Travellers Trust said: “I’m so pleased to have been involved in this work, where the Museum has been so receptive to our thoughts and ideas.

“We have been allowed the freedom to create something that we can be proud of. I am especially proud that this will be a permanent display.”

EXCLUSIVE: Young V&A removes trans poster and LGBTQ+ books

interior of Young V&A
29 Jun 2023

A letter sent to PCS union members at the V&A says the decision to remove a poster advocating for trans rights and two illustrated books on queer identities was made by the museum’s director. 

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