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2013 museum review

December 30, 2013

How was 2013 for you?

For UK museums 2013 was a mixed bag. But among the gloom of austerity, many museums, especially the independent ones, strove for success. The new Mary Rose ship hall reopened in Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. 30 years after the Tudor warship was raised from the seabed, the ship and its contents got a state of an art museum to welcome visitors and show off the fabulous collections. The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow won the Artfund Museum of the Year award, proving that local authorities can nurture artistic and historic gems. Visitor figures showed a general rise in 2013, exemplified by the success of the London Transport Museum, Bursledon Brickworks and English Heritage attractions. Many of these sites succeeded by accessing income from grant funding bodies including the Heritage Lottery, especially as the latter has had its income increase following the completion of the London Olympics (which the Lottery subsidised).

London Transport Museum saw a 50% increase in visitors in 2013

London Transport Museum saw a 50% increase in visitors in 2013

On a negative note the funding for public sector museums continued to fall in 2013, indeed it looks like the arts sector is in anything being hit harder than average. Museums are a discretionary service and unfortunately are proving a tempting target for cuts. Although there were no high profile closures, many museums have had their budgets cut, staff numbers reduced, in some cases with the increasing use of volunteers. Croydon Council sold part of their Chinese Ceramic collection, realising over £8 million, although at the cost of being expelled from the nationally recognised museum standards scheme, Museum Accreditation.

Some public sector museums have decided to join the independents to reduce the impact of the ongoing austerity, which is likely to continue for the rest of the decade. Somerset and Hampshire councils are both committed to creating Trusts for their museums. Even English Heritage is likely to be transferred out of the state sector.

What will 2014 hold for museums? Well expect more launches and high profile exhibitions with the commemoration of the First World War. Some museums will no doubt face closure as the cuts continue, while other museums will be increasing their income generation.  Expect more shops, cafes, venue hire and even object sales.

Happy New Year.

From → Funding, Review

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