The Future of Civic Museums

On the 25th of January 2019, the English Civic Museums Network supported by the National Museums' Directors Council held a seminar to discuss The Future of Civic Museums: A Think Piece at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The entire seminar was filmed, and footage is available below, divided by speaker.


Peter Latchford, Black Radley

Peter Latchford, CEO of Black Radley and author of The Future of Civic Museums: A Think Piece spoke first on the importance of telling the story of civic museums in the right way. Peter stressed the significance of social capital and thinking about regional museums in context as connections between the local and the global.

Kate Bellamy, Director of Museums, Arts Council England

Kate Bellamy presented the Arts Council England’s perspective on civic museums, and their place in the “museums ecology”. Emphasising the breadth and depth of ACE support for English civic museums, including for the variety of museum development programmes undertaken by regional museums, Kate concluded with a discussion of how ACE and civic museums might better be able to work together in future.

Councillor Vernon-Jackson

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council and Chair of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism & Sport Board, encouraged civic museums to develop closer relationships with their councils and consider how museum activities contribute to councils’ broader corporate aims.

Ros Kerslake, National lottery Heritage Fund

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, addressed the funding landscape for civic museums and the role of NLHF in supporting “1100 different projects” in English Local Authority Museums. Ros also discussed governance, resilience, and the need for civic museums to “sell the story” of their work to local communities.

Roundtable Discussion

The previous speakers were joined by Ellen McAdam (Director of Birmingham Museums Trust) and Neil Mendoza (Leader of the 2017 Mendoza Review: an Independent Review of Museums in England) to discuss a wide range of issues related to The Future of Civic Museums. As was the case for much of the day, questions of communication and vocabulary were considered frequently, as was the need to connect regional and national organisations.

Matthew Taylor, RSA

Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Matthew Taylor discussed the importance of heritage for cultural identity and inclusive growth. He discussed the success of the RSA’s Heritage Index in light of promoting local connection to heritage culture, as well as the RSA’s intent to work more on heritage topics in future.

Andrew Barnett, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Andrew Barnett, Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's UK branch, touched on some of the challenges facing the civic museums organisations in reaching their full potential. Andrew also discussed some specific projects undertaken by Calouste Gulbenkian relevant to museum leadership, including a partnership with the Clore Leadership to deliver a place-based leadership scheme for people from the cultural sector.

Tristram Hunt, Victoria and Albert Museum

Tristram Hunt, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, spoke about the V&A's history as a civic institution, as well as his intent to push forward the V&A's work in partnership with regional museums. He also discussed the importance of museums in general, and civic museums specifically, in providing "providing [a] space for public discourse" in the context of a trusted institution.




NMDC and the ECMN would like to thank the Victoria & Albert Museum for use of the Sackler Centre, Nichola Johnson for hosting and directing the event, and Cheryl McCarrick for organising the seminar and making sure everything ran smoothly. 

We would also like to thank all speakers for delivering such engaging talks, and attendees for asking thought-provoking questions.