In 2016 the Museums Taskforce was convened by the Museums Association (MA). The group of museum leaders from across the UK worked together to find solutions to the increasingly difficult financial and operational issues that many museums in the UK face.
The Museums Taskforce has now published its report on the future of museums in the UK. The report recommends radical change in how museums operate, how they are funded and how they can retain their relevance as institutions in contemporary society.
The Taskforce reaffirms the vital place of collections at the heart of our museums, but calls for a “brave approach to collections management and rationalisation” and suggests that a culture change is needed within museums in order to break the cycle of having too much material that is not being used or delivering public benefit, and not having sufficient resource to make informed decisions about how collections might best be used.
The Taskforce considered the issues of funding across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and recognised that across all nations museums are in the midst of a severe drop in public funding. The Taskforce calls on government to examine new cross-departmental funding streams to support key museum activities such as learning and outreach. It also proposes that local authorities should give museums far greater freedoms in their operations and communications, akin to the existing freedoms enjoyed by national museums.
Finally, the Taskforce also calls for museums to work hard to maintain their relevance in modern society. “Museums need to understand demographic and technological changes and address these through engaged dialogue and partnership, contemporary collecting and programming.” In particular, the Taskforce urges government to support museums to further develop the diversity of their workforce and audiences.
The Museums Taskforce was chaired by Laura Pye, Head of Culture for Bristol City Council. Laura Pye said: “The taskforce was set up by the MA in July 2016 to look at the challenges and opportunities that museums face across the whole of the UK. We wanted to review and understand where we were as a sector, accepting that this is different for different organisations; learn from examples across all four nations; and share suggestions as to how museums can thrive. We hope the statements focused on funding, collections and relevance provide an overview of where the sector is currently at and offer recommendation to move forward with. We will be using the statements to speak to key stakeholders and to advocate for the changes we believe are needed.”
The Museums Taskforce will continue to make the case for change to government, sector organisations and the museums sector itself over the course of 2018.