Attractions industry news

01 Oct 2019

UK museum infrastructure is crumbling, warn sector leaders

Museum infrastructure in the UK is at breaking point and requires critical investment to protect collections after years of cutbacks, according to leading figures in the museum sector.

The Museums Association's president Maggie Appleton, National Museum Directors' Council chair Ian Blatchford, and Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar were all behind a letter published in The Times newspaper on 30 September, which highlighted a "quiet crisis" in the UK museums sector, with "crumbling buildings" threatening the stability and preservation of collections.

"For a decade, museums have suffered swingeing cuts in local and central government funding while coping with record visitor numbers," the letter said.

"We have delayed essential maintenance, patched or repaired infrastructure and rattled the tin for donations to fill the gap, but we are now at breaking point."

The letter suggests that "leaking roofs and antiquated air-handling systems" are the result of the funding cuts, while digitisation projects struggle to get started or make progress.

The ability of national museums to lend objects to regional museums is also affected, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy lenders and insurers that the conditions are suitable for them to be displayed safely.

These kinds of problems were brought into focus during the summer, the newspaper reported, with masonry collapsing and sewage flooding into collection stores at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. The costs of the backlog of repairs are estimated to run into the tens of millions of pounds, it said.

Museums Association director Sharon Heal says policy-makers need to focus not just on funding for repairs but also on investing in revenue support for museums.

"The impact of years of cuts and disinvestment is taking its toll on our amazing regional museums and galleries. The MA has been warning about the consequences of the cuts for the past five years," said Heal.

"The report from the Museums Taskforce, published last year, outlined the crumbling infrastructure and maintenance backlog that many museums have to deal with. But as well as cash for repairs we need revenue funding to support the fantastic and life-changing day-to-day work that we do with our communities."

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