Natural History Museum 'sorry' for National Conservatism event

A Blue Whale skeleton mounted in Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum
02 Jun 2023

Institution distances itself from 'hateful rhetoric' expressed at private dinner held at the museum by rightwing thinktank, and apologises for not calling out a tweet 'that minimised the horrors of the Holocaust'.

Foundling Museum makes 'urgent' appeal to secure future

Visitors in Introductory Gallery at the Foundling Museum
01 Jun 2023

The institution is seeking £1m in additional funding by September to secure the long-term future of its building and collections.

University develops guidance on trans-inclusive practice for museums

30 May 2023

The Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) at the University of Leicester is developing guidance on trans-inclusive practice in museums, galleries and heritage organisations.

To ensure that the advice is as useful as possible across the sector, RCMG is asking cultural organisations to complete a confidential survey detailing the challenges they are experiencing and any issues they would like the guidance to cover.

The work aims to help organisations advance their commitments to greater equality and inclusion by offering clear advise and support.

“Although more and more museums, galleries and heritage organisations are keen to develop their trans-inclusive practice – to work with communities to improve representation, to welcome trans visitors and support trans colleagues – recent months have seen increasing uncertainty and sometimes anxiety about how to take this forward,” said Richard Sandell, Co-Director of the RCMG.

“The guidance we are developing will support organisations to be ambitious and confident in their work to advance trans-inclusion and equality.”

The guidance will be developed with legal scholars from the University of Edinburgh and is set to be issued this summer.

It will include an ethical framework to guide work that seeks to advance equality for trans staff and visitors as well as guiding organisations in how to foster approaches that increase public understanding and support for trans inclusion.

Research grant set to illuminate Portsmouth’s past

30 May 2023

Researchers will delve into Portsmouth’s heritage, culture and collections with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for nine PhD studentships.

Portsmouth City Council was awarded the fully-funded PhD studentships as part of the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships programme.  

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth, along with other Higher Education institutions, will work with the city’s museums and archive team to design and co-supervise research projects based on the city’s historic collections, heritage and culture.

“This is a real coup for the city as the programme typically supports national organisations – it shows the strength and depth of our heritage and collections,” said Counsellor Steve Pitt, the Leader of Portsmouth City Council with responsibility for culture.

“This programme will help us uncover new perspectives on the city’s past and help us to share our story and heritage in new and exciting ways.”

Professor Anne Murphy, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, said the researchers’ discoveries “will open up Portsmouth’s amazing heritage and culture to new perspectives and audiences in and beyond the city”.

The council is inviting expressions of interest from Higher Education institutions who would like to collaborate on research proposals, with the first projects projected to begin in October 2024.
 

Italy hikes museum prices to repair flood damage

30 May 2023

Italy is raising the price of museum tickets by €1, with proceeds going towards saving cultural heritage damaged by floods in the Emilia-Romagna region.

The measure was announced by the Italian government as part of a €2 billion aid package.

Proposed by Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, the price hike will apply to all state-run museums from 15 June for a two-month period.

The decision has split opinion in Italy. While some have supported the government’s decisiveness, others have raised concern it will deter the public from visiting museums.

According to ISTAT statistics agency, fewer than a quarter of Italians visited a museum in 2022.

Also last week, Italian Culture Ministry Undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni said the Culture Ministry has made €2.5m available to help protect cultural heritage, and will further invest another €6m.
 

Vagina Museum reaches fundraising target for relocation

26 May 2023

The Vagina Museum has exceeded a fundraising target to allow it move into a new premises situated between two railway arches in East London.

According to an online crowdfunder, over 2,400 donations have helped the museum surpass its £85,000 target.

The organisation's director, Florence Schechter, had said the museum would face permanent closure if the target was not reached.

The museum has been homeless since January after being given less than a week to vacate the premises it held for less than a year, causing the museum to operate digitally in the interim.

In an update shared on Twitter, the museum thanked all donors, adding that is had been "really touch and go": "If we didn't reach the target, we would have had to wind up".

"We're busily preparing design and fit-out work for our new home. And we're planning new exhibitions as well as levelling up our permanent exhibition," the statement added.

The fundraiser will remain open until early June, with additional proceeds going towards the musuem "opening its doors in an even stronger and more secure position".

Nottingham Castle to reopen with new pricing structure

22 May 2023

Nottingham Castle will reopen on 26 June, seven months on from its closure when the trust responsible for its operation entered liquidation.

When the castle reopened in 2021 after a £31m redevelopment project, a standard admission price of £13 was introduced, or £9.50 for children, leading to complaints and calls for ticket prices to be reviewed, according to local press at the time.

The heritage site will now adopt ‘pay once, visit all year’ ticketing arrangements when it reopens, with adults able to pay £12 for all year access, with children under 15 able to go free with a paying adult.

A family of five will now be able to buy an annual pass for £24, compared with £35.50 before the castle’s closure.

The new admission arrangements will include unlimited access to the grounds, Brewhouse Yard Cottages, Robin Hood Adventures and Rebellion Galleries and the castle museum, unlimited for a 12-month period.

Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Planning at Nottingham City Council, said the the local authority hopes the announcement will come as welcome news.

“We have endeavoured to listen to what visitors didn’t like about the Trust’s admission arrangements, and I believe the simpler pricing and exceptional value we are announcing will help to encourage visitors, near and far, to come back again and again.”

A new website has been launched to take advanced bookings.

Cultural transformation programme supports Welsh museums

15 May 2023

Several museums in Wales have received funding in the latest round of the Welsh Government's Cultural Transformation Capital Programme.

Among those to benefit from the £1.7m funding pot is Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery in Merthyr Tydfil.

It has been awarded £146,480 to develop an off-site storage space that will enable the relocation of its art store and provide better access to its collection.

Other recipients include Narberth Museum in Pembrokeshire which has been awarded £120,534 to improve efficiency, while Abergavenny Castle will use its £110,000 to improve energy efficiency.

Rhondda Heritage Park in Rhondda Cynon Taf has received £135,000 towards new interactive history digital displays.

Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Dawn Bowden, said that support provided by local museums, archives and libraries "is essential to helping communities in Wales thrive, now more than ever". 

She added: "This round of funding is supporting a wide variety of initiatives, from transforming spaces to be better used by their communities, enabling greater access and participation, whilst also supporting the health and wellbeing of users, to preserving collections for future generations."

Since the programme was extended in 2017 to include museums and archives, more than £9m has been provided to organisations across Wales.

City council defends Glasgow Life staff cuts

12 May 2023

Glasgow City Council’s culture leader has said a reduction in the number of staff at Glasgow Life will not affect the quality of the city’s cultural offer.

Earlier this year, the council announced the number of conservation staff at Glasgow Life, which operates council-owned cultural venues, will be reduced by 40% as part of a £1.5m cost saving effort in the museums and collections department.

The decision will mean displays and temporary exhibitions will not be changed as frequently in museums under Glasgow Life’s remit.

Staff cuts at the charity date back to 2021, following a loss of income due to pandemic-related closures.

Responding to concerns raised by fellow councillors at a council meeting on Thursday (11 May), City Convener for Culture, Sport and International Relations, Anette Christie, said the impact of the proposals had been carefully considered.

“It is recognised that this level of reduction will of course have an impact on the frequency of temporary exhibitions and display changes but these decisions have been made in response to the scale of the financial challenge that the city faces.”

Christie insisted the affected museums will retain their Glasgow Museums accreditation, which allows venues to secure revenue or capital funding.

She added the city will maintain its reputation for world-renowned collections, with the council planning development projects at the People’s Palace and the Mitchell Library.

“This city is a city of innovation and we will build on that. Our ambitions still remain great,” Christie said.

“Change is difficult but I have assured them of how important they are to the city, the role that they play and I can say with confidence they are still dedicated.”

Funding secured for exhibition touring network

12 May 2023

An exhibition touring network will be established to develop and tour exhibitions across a dozen sites in England after securing funding from Arts Council England (ACE) and Art Fund.

The Museums and Galleries Network for Exhibition Touring (MAGNET) brings together 12 partners across England, plus the Touring Exhibitions Group (TEG), to co-develop new exhibitions which will tour between partner venues.

It has been awarded a £336,000 Touring Projects grant from ACE to enable it to develop and tour three new exhibitions, opening in 2025. 

Meanwhile, £75,000 from Art Fund will help fund a three-year full-time MAGNET Coordinator post, to ensure smooth running of the network. 

The new network aims to allow exhibitions to be seen by many more people, as well as addressing the unsustainability of "single use" exhibitions. The three-year funding deal will also see MAGNET develop a sustainable business model to allow future touring to other partner venues and the creation of further exhibitions.

Nick Merriman, Chief Executive of the Horniman Museum and Gardens and MAGNET lead, said: "There is now real momentum and a nationwide movement to support touring exhibitions. 

"We know that, by pooling our resources, we can offer high-quality, co-curated exhibitions that make the collections of the whole network accessible to the public in a meaningful way. 

"Thanks to Arts Council England and Art Fund we can now continue MAGNET’s reach beyond the walls and vaults of any one museum and into local communities around the country."

Growing number of craft skills 'under threat'

11 May 2023

Traditional craft skills are "on the verge of extinction" in the UK, according to new research.

Five new skills have been added to the "critically endangered" category of the Red List of Endangered Crafts, a research project by the charity Heritage Crafts.

These include straw hat making and encaustic tile making, which join a list of 146 at-risk crafts. Other endangered crafts are Cornish hedging, marionette making, and pigment making.

Researcher Mary Lewis said factors such as the energy crisis, inflation, the pandemic and Brexit had all made matters worse for those working in traditional crafts.

She said: “We know that heritage craft skills operate like an ecosystem; if we lose one part it can have devastating consequences on other parts of the system.

"If we allow endangered crafts to disappear then we seriously diminish the opportunities for future generations to create their own sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods and deal with the challenges of the future.”

The Red List of Endangered Crafts 2023 edition can be viewed online at redlist.heritagecrafts.org.uk.

Royal College of Surgeons' museum reopens after £100m redevelopment

11 May 2023

The Royal College of Surgeons is reopening its museum following a £100m redevelopment.

The Hunterian Museum – named after 18th Century surgeon John Hunter – has been closed for five years during building work.

While the museum’s Grade II* listed façade has been kept, the rest of the site has been rebuilt.

The building in London’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields holds Hunter's own collection – purchased by the government in 1799 – as well as more recent collections including teeth, bones, ancient remains, and surgical and medical tools.

One particularly controversial item in Hunter's collection – the skeleton of Charles Byrne, known as the ‘Irish Giant’ – will not be put back on display when the museum reopens on 16 May.

Hunter purchased Byrne’s corpse despite the Irishman requesting to be buried at sea.

The museum's trustees made the decision to remove the skeleton from public display after a vocal campaign.

Speaking to The Arts Newspaper about the museum's reopening, Dawn Kemp, director of Museums and Archives at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “It’s not just about surgery. It’s about helping people gain an understanding of the human body."

Newly appointed NPO closes museum for refurbishment

09 May 2023

A museum in Rochdale that joined the National Portfolio this year is to close for 18 months in August for redevelopment works.

Touchstones museum and art gallery is operated by Your Trust, which became a National Portfolio Organisation last month, receiving £325,000 a year for the next three years.

The museum's Grade II listed building, which is currently home to five temporary galleries, is closing for a refurbishment that forms part of an £8.5m investment package into arts and culture in Rochdale over the next three years. 

Funding for the investment project has been granted through the government’s Cultural Development Fund.

The redevelopment at Touchstones will create new performance and production spaces for artists and improved areas for training, live events and exhibitions. A new retail and catering space, alongside improvements to archives, collections and displays are also planned.

Head of Engagement and Heritage and Touchstones Rochdale, Mark Doyle, said: “Closing the building for a significant amount of time is never the ideal option, but the teams are working hard to coordinate activities and groups to ensure we’re still working across the borough throughout the redevelopment."

An epic collective digital artwork celebrating UK wildlife

Mobile phone showing The Wild Escape app photographing wildlife
09 May 2023

At a time when museums are facing increasing external pressures, Mike Keating shares how a major new project has inspired children to respond to the UK’s natural environment.

Museum of London relocation hit by spiralling costs

A computer-generated image of the new Museum of London site
04 May 2023

Funding of £73m has been released to allow redevelopment of new premises to begin, but project has been hit by rising costs and elements of the work will be delayed by two years.

Heritage sector ‘over reliant’ on volunteers, survey suggests

a tour guide speaks to an audience in a town square
03 May 2023

Dependence on volunteers is found to be highest in organisations with lower turnover, although issues of attracting volunteers from varied backgrounds appear widespread.

Navigating the challenges of digitisation and museums

Cornwall Museums Partnership Beyond Digitisation Project. 3D models of a costume collection.
03 May 2023

Digitising collections is an ongoing challenge for museums, as evidenced in the latest National Museum Partnership reportFiona Morris and Charlotte Morgan discuss the potential of cross-cultural and technical partnerships as a solution.

Plans for £10m Horniman Museum upgrade submitted

An artists' impression of new development in previously underused parts of the museum estate
02 May 2023

The museum's transformation will include a focus on improving accessibility and thermal performance.

Price hikes at Leeds museums and attractions 

02 May 2023

The price of entry to some museums and attractions in Leeds has risen by up to 14%, the BBC reports.

The price hikes apply at venues including Temple Newsam House, Leeds Industrial Museum, Thwaite Watermill and Abbey House Museum, all owned by Leeds City Council.

The rises were implemented due to inflationary pressures and increased staff costs, the council said. 

The average rise in entry prices was between 5% and 14%. No admission price will rise by more than £2, the council said.

Attractions including the Art Gallery and Leeds City Museum will remain free to enter.

A council report laying out the price changes said they aimed to “ensure Leeds Museums and Galleries can provide choice to visitors, offer value for money alongside specific discounts, deliver against agreed income targets in the next financial year and support Leeds 2023, in the year of culture”.

Ownership of Benin Bronzes transferred to royal ruler

02 May 2023

The ongoing negotiations surrounding the restitution of the Benin Bronzes from European museums may be complicated by the Nigerian government’s decision to officially recognise the Oba of Benin as their owner, it has been suggested.

The transfer of ownership of the artefacts, which were looted in the 19th Century, was announced via a Presidential Declaration made in March.

The proposed law states that “all artefacts must be delivered to the Oba of Benin who exercises the rights of original owner. This covers the ones already repatriated and those yet to be repatriated,” a report on the Arise news website said. 

“For many Edo people, it is right and proper that such objects go back to the Oba as they were looted from his great-great-grandfather,” Barnaby Phillips, author of Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes, told the Art Newspaper.

But he said the decision had caused confusion among European museums currently negotiating deals with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). The organisation itself was also “blindsided” by the transfer of ownership, he added.

The NCMM is responsible for coordinating restitution efforts with Western institutions. 

Godwin Obaseki, the local Edo State governor, has backed plans to house the bronzes in the Edo Museum of Western African Art, due to open in stages from next year, but Oba wants the bronzes to be held by his family in a royal museum or palace, the Art Newspaper reported.
 

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