British Museums Struggling With 25% Cuts

Museums Association

UK museums have had their funding cut by at least 25% by the Government and local councils in the past nine months, a survey has shown. The Museums Association’s impact study clearly highlights the result of the government Spending Review, which took place in October 2010. 140 museums took part in the survey. There has been considerable anecdotal evidence that cuts to public funding have inflicted serious damage on the UK museums sector. Individual museums report closures, staff losses and service reduction up and down the country; however there is no clear and comprehensive picture of the overall health of the sector. This report sets out to provide such a picture. In May and June this year the Museums Association (MA) asked museum staff to provide information regarding changes to their budgets, staffing, operations and general service provision. They were requested to compare current museum performance with that of April 2010. The qualitative and quantitative data reproduced here is representative of museums from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as of local, national, independent, military and university institutions of all sizes. 161 individuals responded to the survey, representing 140 museums services responsible for a total of 200 separate sites. The body of respondents is representative of the UK sector, being well-balanced regionally and by type and size of museum service. In the report, Section 1 offers a broad overview of the

sector, analysing information from the entire body of survey respondents. Section 2 concentrates on all museums that have experienced a budget cut since April 2010, and Section 3 focuses on organisations that have received a budget cut in excess of 25%. Section 4 offers Museums in sample by region-nation/type predominantly qualitative data, giving an overview of

moods and opinions amongst respondents. The appendix to the report is published in a separate document and comprises raw data regarding the report’s key areas of concern – budgets, staffing and service provision. This is presented in various forms – arranged so that information regarding museums from different regions/nations, and of different types and sizes, may be easily accessed.

82 organisations, 58% of respondents, have experienced a cut to their overall budget in the past year. 28 museums (20%) experienced a cut of more than a quarter. compared with April last year.
Deep cuts have a serious impact on museums’ public service provision. Museums that have faced a cut of 25% or more are twice as likely to be reducing opening hours as museums facing lesser cuts; they are nearly three times as likely to be making staff cuts in excess of 10%. After the three-year period within which the cuts are required, they will sit back and look at the ragged tatters of what had been a growing and enthusiastic museum service, and the tired, cynical staff within it, and perhaps regret their hasty and ill-informed decisions.” “The Council has taken the decision to close the museum and pack up the collections to move to alternative storage as a way to ‘save’ money. In reality, the funding cuts have been the perfect opportunity to finally close an old museum that needed money spending on it to refurbish and repair the fabric of the building.” Photo: Bob & Roberta Smith © 2011 ArtLyst