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How should museums respond to Brexit?
The 2016 AGM of the Midlands Federation of Museums and Galleries explored the implications of Britain’s recent referendum on EU membership, in which the vote to leave the EU surprised many.
The speakers reflecting on Brexit, and its possible impact on the role of the Museum, included the President of the Museums Association, David Fleming, Andrew Lovett, Director of Black Country Living Museum, and Ellen McAdam, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust.
As President of MidFed, Jonathan Wallis warned that we must consider the community impact of Brexit within multi-cultural Britain, which has already been devolved into four regions. He also outlined the importance of sustaining the international partnership, which has the often overlooked impact of supporting the fight against the ongoing trade in illicit objects and antiquities.
David Fleming, President of M.A. and Director of National Museums Liverpool, reflected on the lack of certainty of what happens next and a lack of real understanding of the situation. What does seem certain as an aftermath of the Brexit vote is the distinct rise in race hate crimes against ethnic minority groups in this country. David questioned how museums, as ‘safe spaces’ should respond to this and what this meant for the idea of ‘politically neutral’ museums. Equal rights, racism, and other ‘political’ issues need to be brought into museums in order to explore and challenge them in as we adapt to the new world in which we seem to be living in. Funding is, of course, a major issue with museums benefiting from EU funding, particularly in deprived areas. There still needs to be work done on distribution of funding outside London more fairly to engage those in areas of deprivation.
Andrew Lovett, Director Black Country Museum, spoke about the important role that European and International museum networks play for the independent Museum sector. Brexit has already been discussed by the Museum Directors Group and AIM, who all recognise the importance of the decision for the future of the community in which museums operate. The sudden resignation of Martin Roth as director of the V&A, has been speculated to be a direct result of the referendum result and perhaps already demonstrate the danger we face in losing talent from the workforce.
Andrew acknowledged a sense that, as many museum staff and managers seem to have been on the remain side of the debate, we have lost touch with those communities that we serve. Can we still consider ourselves to be representative of the public if we differ on an issue of such importance as this?
However, Andrew did feel that independent museums have always been quite resilient to sudden changes in the economic and political environment in which they operate and are perhaps better placed to withstand changes than local authority and national counterpart. His direct response, as President of the Association of European Outdoor Museums, has been to demonstrate a continued commitment to Europe though volunteering to host their annual conference at the Black Country Living Museum next year.
Ellen McAdam, Director of Birmingham Museum Trust, also offered a positive message, that the current political and economic climate around us was not a reason for UK museums to stop building on the strengths and partnerships that have been set up across European cultural institutions and sites. Ellen identified the referendum outcome as part of the wider issues that have always affected museums and their identity as cultural bodies. Now we need to ensure that they remain relevant and indispensable within fast changing social and cultural climates. Cities and towns with strong public collections can still be key players within world culture continue to understand the unique value and importance of their buildings and collections as local centres of learning and creativity, serving their own interest groups and local populations. Ellen also felt that as politically neutral spaces, museum can continue to play key role in the promotion and understanding of human history and culture within a wider European context
The discussion that followed focused on the social responsibility and what museums can offer their immediate community audiences in the wake of uncertainty and increasing intolerance. Museums can provide a forum to negotiate the issues thrown up by the referendum, but we need to ensure that the public is being given a real ‘voice’ in the content of museum displays and exhibitions as part of a more inclusive and two-way conversation. We also need to ensure that we remain in touch with our communities and our political climate, and to be brave enough to reflect both the divisions and continuities within our society and its place within Europe, now and in the future.
Following the Chancellor’s announcement in the Autumn Statement that the government had listened to the campaign initiated by AIM and supported widely by museums and sector organisations, and was extending the Museums and Galleries tax relief to permanent exhibitions, the government has now published more information about how the new tax relief will operate, including some more changes:
Photo: The Joseph Wright Gallery, the Museum and Art Gallery, Derby. Credit – Derby Museums Trust
*The relief will also be open to libraries, archives, historic houses and other organisations, such as sculpture parks, as long as the exhibitions are put on by qualifying institutions.
*Exhibitions not held in eligible museums or galleries can qualify providing they are put on by eligible institutions.
*Exhibitions must be open to the general public
*A fee can be charged
*Institutions can raise other sponsorship towards costs.
*The relief will be on the main costs…
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Arts Council England today launched its diversity data report Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case 2015/16 at their Power Through Diversity event in Manchester. The Report shows that there are signs of a cultural shift emerging around workforce, with more black and minority representation, but that more progress was needed, particularly in the area of disabled representation.
For the first time the Arts Council has collected and published data on the socio-economic profile of audiences. The report shows that those most actively involved in arts and culture tend to be from the most privileged parts of society. This adds to previous research from DCMS’s Taking Part surveys which looked at the diversity of audiences and revealed that Black, minority ethnic, and disabled audiences continue to be underrepresented.
Speaking at the event, Arts Council England’s Chief Executive Darren Henley said, “Our challenge is to remain focused on that mission – to…
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If you are looking to increase your professional knowledge and skills to enable you and the museums that you lead or support to flourish in 2017, then make sure you apply for the AIM Hallmarks Leaders and Enablers Programme which is now open for applications.
You might be a Museum Director who wants to build a supportive network of peers facing similar challenges – or to share ideas – or perhaps you are a Museum Development Officer or Consultant looking to extend your range of tools to resolve dilemmas and address complex issues. Whatever your role, the range of practical tools, ongoing support and new networks will inspire you with new ideas and enhance your confidence.
The AIM Hallmarks Learning Programme has been developed to address the needs of those who lead or support museums and is delivered on behalf of AIM by Ruth Lesirge and Hilary Barnard: highly experienced consultants with a strong track…
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The MidFed 2015/16 annual report can now be downloaded here.
As well as information on the Fed’s activities for the past 12 months, the report highlights the challenges faced by the Fed as the sector itself responds to the numerous economic, social and political challenges faced.
As an independent and cross region organisation the committee firms believes that the Fed has an important role to play in the museum sector and will work hard to develop the organisation into a relevant body.
If you have any comments, suggestions or queries please don’t hesitate to contact the Federation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the Hallmarks identified by AIM as contributing to a Prospering Museum is Governance. Successful museums are those where Trustees and senior staff or volunteers understand their different ro…
AIM’s analysis of how the 2015 Spending Review could affect independent museums.
There was good news and some surprises in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review announcements in the House of Commons on 25th November. Unusually, museums featured in his speech. The long-made argument that funding for culture is an investment appeared to have won through. He stated,
Britain’s not just brilliant at science. It’s brilliant at culture too. One of the best investments we can make as a nation is in our extraordinary arts, museums, heritage, media and sport. £1 billion a year in grants adds a quarter of a trillion pounds to our economy – not a bad return. So deep cuts in the small budget of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are a false economy.
Although the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) received a 20% cut in its administration costs, in an unexpectedly good settlement, funding for the national museums was guaranteed for the next four years at current…
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