Monday, October 25, 2010

UK Museum cuts

In Istanbul two weeks ago my colleagues who work at the British Museum were telling me that contingencies were in place to deal with up to 40% budget cuts. That would have meant a substantial down sizing of staff as well as a host of other cuts to programs. So amidst the general devastation of nearly half a million civil servants being laid off over the next four years, the budget cuts announced by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne on Wednesday were remarkably supportive of the museum sector. The free museum entry programme in place for the national museums has been maintained, the extensions to the British Museum and Tate Modern confirmed, and even the highly successful Renaissance in the Regions Program renewed. So the cuts that did come in the region of 15-17% were greeted with a quiet sigh of relief.

How has the museum sector managed to state its case so well? My view is that in the UK at least the national museums (on which the strength of the sector is built) have entered a golden age of late, abuzz with visitors from dawn to dusk and frequently into the evening, with strong educational programs, regular talks and concerts, good cafés and restaurants and truly finding a new vocation as space where people want to meet. Let’s hope that they can cope with these cuts with a minimum of effect on the ongoing development of what they have achieved.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

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