British Library explores creating one national public library database
The British Library is leading an 18-month project to see if it is possible to give all of the UK’s public libraries a single digital presence. Funded by ACE and the Carnegie UK Trust, the project will include interviews, workshops and market analysis. Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries for ACE said “inhabiting the mobile, digital space, complementing and energising the existing library offer, is central to the future strength and relevance of libraries. [ACE is] very excited by the prospect of it becoming a reality.”British Library, ACE
Also: The British Library’s Will Prentice has spoken to Wired magazine about the ongoing major project to digitise sound recordings before they decay, or the machines needed to listen to them become unavailable. The project has already needed to acquire various obsolete technologies from ebay. Holdings include a 4000 disc Nazi radio archive which has never been played, and songs collected in the Caucasus before the Russian Revolution by an ‘engineer on a donkey’. Wired
The Hatton Gallery at Newcastle University, part of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, reopens on 7th October following a £3.5m refurbishment with a new exhibition highlighting the gallery’s connection to pop art. Curator Julie Milne said “many people think Pop Art started in the USA with Andy Warhol – but in reality, a lot of the thinking and work behind it was happening in the UK, and not just in London but also Newcastle.” Artist Richard Hamilton taught at the university during the 50s and 60s while at the centre of the Pop Art circle and used the high walls of the Hatton to explore more innovative exhibition practice. Paolozzi, Hockney and Kitaj are among those whose works are on display for the reopening. Newcastle University
Also: More details of the Great Exhibition of the North have been announced: Helen Sharman's space suit and John Lennon's last piano are among the objects that will be on display in the Great North Museum during the festival. Great Exhibition of the North
V&A’s ‘Their Mortal Remains’ most successful music exhibition
The V&A’s Pink Floyd exhibition ‘Their Mortal Remains’ is likely to become the museum’s most popular ever music exhibition, outstripping the show on David Bowie which attracted 311k in London before touring. Demand is so great for tickets, which are £22-£26 full price, that it will be extending for a fortnight to October 15th. Visits already exceed 300k. The Telegraph is among those praising the show, but advises that it’s the headphones which bring the exhibition alive: “while it is a treat to walk through a darkened corridor illuminated by a holographic representation of the pyramid prism from Dark Side of the Moon, it is still the swirling keyboards and cosmic lead solo that really blow the mind.” Guardian, V&A, Telegraph (paywall)
Images this month come from Royal Museums Greenwich's 'Death in the ice' exhibition, which explores the fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew, who were last seen in 1845, on their final expedition to the arctic. Material is from the National Maritime Museum's own collections and from the wreck of the HMS Erebus whose resting place was only discovered in 2014. The exhibition continues to January 2018. RMG
Last month we described how the BBC is partnering with museums, galleries and libraries across the country on a major festival linked to its programme Civilisations, which will tell the history of the world and update Kenneth Clark’s iconic series of half a century ago. We will be providing regular updates on opportunities for museums until the launch next March. Museums should note that:
The festival is aimed largely at a 16+ audience, and organisers hope to engage audiences in some of the more difficult questions about civilisation, identity, change and loss.
Although the BBC series will focus on the visual arts and architecture, museums are encouraged to also consider objects from other types of collections that stretch the definition of art – anything from steam engines to pin badges which can tell a story of ‘civilisations’ will fit the festival themes.
Museums are already beginning to register events to be associated with the festival. The BBC encourages venues to add event plans to Museum Crush as soon as possible, as it will be using this data to choose events for further programming, radio shows and outside broadcast.
Local BBC radio stations will also be seeking to cover nearby museums with events and stories to tell: however, radio stations operate in a fairly short timeframe, and will probably do the majority of their planning in the six weeks before 2nd March.
Civilisations branding materials will be available from the BBC in September.
Although contact points will become more complex and local as preparations for the festival progress, all interested museums are encouraged to sign up initially at [email protected]
The festival will include a major digital component as well as live events. The BBC’s Research and Development department is offering museums an opportunity to use innovative, newly developed tools, either on the BBC’s own ‘Taster’ platform or on organisations’ own websites. An augmented reality app, 360° video tools and low cost live video broadcasting. Four workshops to demonstrate the possibilities of using these digital tools are taking place during September in England:
Tributes have been made to Martin Roth, Director of the V&A until September 2016, who died in August aged 62. Under Roth’s directorship the V&A worked on many projects to extend its presence from its South Kensington home: from exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, to a partnership with a new museum in Shekou, China, V&A Dundee and plans for an outpost at the Olympic Park in East London. Last year V&A won the Museum of the Year Award, shortly after the reopening of the new Europe 1600–1815 galleries. Roth also oversaw much of the work towards the V&A’s £50m new entrance and underground exhibition space. The V&A website carries more personal reminiscences about Martin, described by Edmund de Waal as ‘a big thinker, and a restless spirit, but above all… a great person’. Writing for the Guardian, Hella Pick said “Martin Roth was a citizen of the world, a convinced European and a German who felt deeply about the need to redeem the Holocaust. He was an imaginative and enterprising practitioner of cultural diplomacy who passionately believed that the great public museums not only have an educational role but can help to build bridges across political divides”. Telegraph (register to see full article), V&A, Guardian, M + H, V&A (Chairman’s statement)
Janice Murray, Director General of the National Army Museum will retire in October. Janice has been at the Museum since 2010, prior to which she was CEO at the Royal Armouries and Deputy Head of the National Railway Museum. Paul Kirkman is standing down as Director of the National Railway Museum, which he joined in 2012 on secondment from DCMS. Museums Journal, NRM
Design of the Year competition entries shaped by global politics
The Design Museum’s Beazley Designs of the Year competition – which celebrates some of the best designs of the previous twelve months – is dominated by many projects reflecting the state of world politics. Sixty entries covering architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport will be in a museum exhibition and online for public voting from October. Entries include a text message service for refugees, the pussycat hats used in protests against President Trump, graphics including two separate entries of EU referendum posters as well as campaign materials promoting more women in Egyptian science and politics. Architectural projects range from a ‘Plugin house’ which adds new functions and spaces to buildings at an affordable price, to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. A translating earpiece and a device to allow wheelchairs to climb stairs are also included. Winners in each category and overall will be announced on 25th January 2018. Design Museum, M+H
AHRC offers researchers a chance to gain media skills with BBC Radio 3
The Arts & Humanities Research Council is offering up to sixty places for early career professionals engaged in academic work to hone their media skills and learn how to communicate their specialism better with the wider public. Museum staff working in the arts and humanities, whose institution is defined as an Independent Research Organisation (IRO) can apply to the scheme. Training includes developing programme-making workshops with BBC Radio 3 producers. Up to ten participants will become part of the station’s resident 'New Generation Thinkers' with regular opportunities to make programmes and be heard on air. The closing date is 4pm on 12th October. AHRC
Government announces £15m Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund
The government is creating a £15m fund for cultural, digital and infrastructure regeneration of cities in the North. The Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund will be administered by DCMS and will offer individual grants up to £4m to build on the momentum created by the 2018 Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle-Gateshead. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said “this fund is a fantastic chance for towns and cities to develop inspirational projects that could have a transformative local effect – particularly in communities that have seen less cultural or creative investment in the past”. Projects must fulfill at least one of six criteria, three of which relate directly to culture:
Increased opportunities for people, including children and the young to be inspired by culture and creativity.
More resilient and sustainable cultural and creative organisations.
Innovative partnerships between the cultural sector and other sectors, especially digital.
The first round of bids will be co-ordinated by Local Enterprise Partnerships, with a deadline of 30th November. Successful projects will be announced in March 2018. Gov.uk, ALVA, M + H
The John Ellerman Foundation's Museums and Galleries Fund is open for applications, with £500k available to fund five or six projects during 2018. It anticipates a ceiling of £85k on individual projects, but this may be increased in exceptional circumstances. The fund focuses on visual and decorative arts, social history and natural history, and will generally fund organisations with a turnover of £100k-£10m. Applicants should demonstrate excellence in their field at national level and a unique or high quality collection. The Foundation is particularly keen on projects which will enable new ways of working for curators, and advance curatorial skills at a time of change. John Ellerman Foundation
Welsh Government offers capital development grants up to £300k
The Welsh government is offering up to £300k in capital development grants for local museums and libraries across Wales. The grants support work to create more sustainable delivery approaches, improve collections, enhance services to people and deal with strategic priorities. Band A grants are up to £120k, Band B to £300k – project are not usually supported below £50k. The deadline for completing an expression of interest is 29th September. Welsh Government
National Audit Office advises clearer donations policies as museums rely more heavily on philanthropy
The National Audit Office (NAO) has carried out a review for DCMS of the processes by which 16 national museums monitor donations. The report also includes basic guidance about donations policy relevant to museums of all sizes. The NAO found that although there is a good understanding of the issues and risks associated with philanthropy in DCMS funded museums, working practice is not always reflected in formal documents, and only a quarter of museums publish donations policy online. The issue is increasingly important as legacies, donations and voluntary gifts have risen from 17% of income in 2012–13 to 21% in 2015–16, and have been the main replacement for declining Grant in Aid. The NAO notes “private donations…are conducted within a less formal legal framework and donors may have motives other than philanthropy, for example to achieve respectability, influence or undisclosed commercial gain.” Institutions must ensure the gift is not the result of illegal financial activity and that it does not give the donor undue influence or risk the institution’s ethical reputation. The report gives basic advice on writing a donations policy, forming an ethics committee and risk management. National Audit Office (full report), Museums Journal
Crowdfunding in the European cultural sector: the lessons from 75,000 campaigns
The European Commission has published a study using data from 75,000 crowdfunding campaigns launched across Europe since 2013 by cultural and creative sector organisations. It found that:
€247m was raised, 7% of the total amount sought, and typical final sums are around €4–6k, which is far more modest than many other funding models.
Film and music crowdfunds make up more than 50% of the total, with heritage projects accounting for less than 1%.
Crowdfunding is significantly more evolved in the UK and France than in other European countries, with the UK accounting for 36% of all campaigns and 41% of the transaction volume; France has 30% of campaigns and 22% of transactions.
Crowdfunding is a demanding way to raise money, but has side benefits such as audience development, market research and community building.
Crowdfunding is often fragmented on very specific platforms, making it difficult to upscale a campaign to wider audiences, although larger US global platforms such as Kickstarter also feature.
The study argues that publicly owned museums and heritage organisations “often have a unique mix of assets to use in crowdfunding campaigns: a strong story, an emotional connection with their audience and a sense of urgency to buy or restore a specific piece of heritage that is worth safeguarding for society at large.” It says that ‘numerous successful campaigns’ across Europe illustrate the benefit. NE-MO
Also: New research by a ticketing system provider suggests that visitors are more likely to donate when booking online (15%) rather than by phone or in person (around 3%). However venues like Cast in Doncaster have achieved 35% donations by phone and in person after training. Arts Professional
Funding through unsecured loans: The Arts Impact Fund
Nesta has published some analysis following the second year of the Arts Impact Fund, which has so far committed £3m of £7m available in unsecured loans for the arts and cultural sector. The work aims to create case studies of business investment in the sector. Despite museums seeing a 29% increase in investment during 2012–15, only 1.9% of bids to the fund have been from museums. Theatre is the biggest single artform. Regionally, half of all bids to the fund have been from London, with the smallest number coming from the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber, both at 2.6%. Nesta has now opened a survey on the demand for private finance in the cultural sector. Nesta, Nesta (survey)
Support for fundraising training for collaborations, groups and networks
The Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy programme is offering funds to help networks of people in the cultural sector meet for fundraising training. Grants range from £1.5k-£2.5k. The deadline for applications is 29th September. Arts Fundraising
The next round of the Cultural Protection Fund large grants programme opened on 5th September. The deadline for expressions of interest is 3rd November, but applicants are asked to make first contact as soon as possible. Grants are between £100k-£2m and for work in ten conflict-affected countries. Smaller grants are available on a rolling basis throughout the year. British Council
Europeans invited to assemble their own UK holiday with a new coastal app
A new interactive video app targeted at visitors from Germany, France and the Netherlands will help to construct the ideal seaside holiday. The England’s Coast app begins by allowing the visitor to select a stretch of coast, after which they can choose destinations, accommodation and nearby attractions. The project is led by the National Coastal Tourism Academy and is funded by the VisitEngland Discover England Fund. It is hoped that the app will extend the tourist season and attract more European visitors. ALVA
Also: A public walking route right around the coast of England is expected to be completed by 2020. Negotiations continue with landowners over stretches not yet open to the public: due to inlets, estuaries and ‘jagged bits’ the final length is estimated at 2,795 miles, or about a tenth of the circumference of the planet. Guardian, National Trail
The number of Chinese people taking holidays abroad is expanding rapidly, from 41 million overnight stays in 2011 to 85 million in 2016. In the UK last year, 250,000 visitors spent £1bn – doubling the number of Chinese holidaymakers compared to five years ago. Chinese visits are still only the 24th largest source of inbound trips to the UK, suggesting potential for much more growth. 73% of Chinese visitors surveyed told VisitBritain they would be ‘extremely likely’ to recommend the UK for a holiday. ALVA, VisitBritain
VisitBritain has published the result of its annual Visitor Attractions Survey 2016. It covers all kinds of attractions from places of worship to zoos, gardens and theme parks as well as museums and heritage sites. The report is based on 1,494 replies. Museum data comes from 465 institutions, the second largest type of respondent after historic properties (498 responses). 2016 findings include:
Museum visits are down 1% compared to those reported in 2014–15. Visits to gardens grew 8% and to historic castles and houses by 7%. The average over all types of attraction was growth by 2%.
Although overseas visitors to England increased in the period by 4%, stay length and spend declined, and 3% less visited an attraction than in 2015.
The Tower of London is the most visited paid attraction with 2.7m visitors, with Kew Gardens in third place with 1.8m visitors. The British Museum heads the free attractions list (6.4m), with London national museums accounting for most of the rest of the top ten.
Prices at paying attractions increased on average by 6% in 2016, significantly more than the 1.7% rate of inflation.
Overall visits in London were down by 1%.
Visits by schoolchildren also declined by 1%, but this is part of a longer trend, with decreasing visits for three years. This is having an impact on sites which depend financially on school trips.
Digitally, the use of picture sharing sites such as Pinterest and Instagram grew significantly in 2016, by 64%. Over a third of attractions now use these platforms.
Little has altered in the approach to additional income generation, except for the growth of ‘Lates’.
The Welsh government has published the data from the 2016 issue of the annual ‘Spotlite on Museums’ survey. These reports complement a more comprehensive survey carried out every four years. Not all museums responded – there was a 60% return from accredited museums. Findings include:
Visits have fallen 5.9% based on a constant sample taken between 2011–2015.
There were 3,843,037 visits based on the data received, generating £73.8m for the economy and employing 1,199 people directly or indirectly.
30% of visitors were children.
Museums had an average of 44 volunteers each, giving an average of 97 hours each year.
ACE and LGA create hub for councils to share cultural best practice
Arts Council England and the Local Government Association have created the Good Practice in Culture Hub. It gives access case studies from around the country illustrating how local councils are dealing with reduced funding, and investing in arts and culture. The hub’s four sections range from data on the value of culture and why councils should continue to support it, to new delivery models, how to achieve efficiencies and examples of individual council members – from Kent to York – who are offering inspiring leadership. Local councils remain the largest funders of culture in the UK, ACE hopes the growing dataset will help councils to continue to support and benefit from the arts. ACE, Local government (hub resources)
Study finds that businesses are drawn to areas with museums and other cultural infrastructure
DCMS has published a new report ‘The role of culture, sport and heritage in place shaping’ exploring the effect of these sectors on the economic prosperity of an area. It is the latest publication in its Culture and Sports Evidence (CASE) programme, and described as ‘highly exploratory’. Nevertheless, the report found a strong relationship between culture assets and a ‘pull’ factor bringing jobs and business to an area:
“We find that the density of cultural and heritage assets was highly and positively related to the density of firms in a local economy, indicating that where there are high densities of theatres, museums, monuments and so on, we tend to find concentrations of economic activity. Further, the density of cultural assets is found to be positively and strongly related to in the net in-migration of businesses, which suggests that such assets are important ‘pull’ factors which influence location decisions” This works equally well in urban areas that are not cities, suggesting that cultural and business concentration is not just a coincidence. Gov.uk, Museums Journal
24 hour party people (and those who want a good night’s sleep)
London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s has outlined his ‘24 hour vision for London’ which includes later opening museums and theatres as well as pubs, clubs and shops. He hopes that the plan will allow London to compete with New York and Berlin as an ‘all night city’ while making sure residents can still get a good night’s sleep. The night economy is estimated to generate £26bn and to create one in eight London jobs. City Hall will now co-ordinate across boroughs and groups from the police to residents and venue owners to make the plan work. Arts Professional, London.gov,
Also: Sadiq Khan is also aiming to make London a greener city with zero carbon emissions by 2050. Walls and roofs will be targeted by a greening programme to reduce pollution and a Green Spaces Commission will help transform parks and green spaces across the city. London.gov
Who comes to museums: cultural capital, not economics?
Tony Butler, Director of Derby Museums Trust, has blogged on his conclusions about who goes to museums and why – drawn anecdotally from his family’s experience of summer visiting and more scientifically from Derby’s research among local groups who never visit museums. He says “access to, and participation in traditional forms of culture foster entitlement and authority. Those with it are more likely to get the best out of institutions and services. They are better educated and pass those qualities to their children. The power of cultural capital is that it is not recognised directly. You can’t see it like the inheritance of property and it is masked by the language of meritocratic achievement and hard work.” Groups with cultural capital are more likely to visit museums and reap the cultural and social benefits. Research in Derby showed that non-visitors were not mainly deterred by unavailability of money for leisure pursuits – they eat out and visit the cinema, commercial festivals and theme parks. However, they see museums as an education rather than a leisure experience – ‘not the sort of thing people like us do’, and not recommended by friends and family. Butler argues that it is both economically in the interest of museums to attract wider groups – as very successful paying attractions like Beamish and the SS Great Britain manage to do – and socially important, so that museums do not ‘tilt towards elites’ at a time when rifts in society are widening. He argues that everything from the greeting when visitors arrive to avoiding ‘willful obscurantism’ in how history is explained can draw non-visitors past barriers that are ‘sometimes more perceived than real’. Tony Butler blog
Also: Derby Museums Trust is involving its visitors in exhibition design and content for its Silk Mill site. Suzanne MacLeod from the University of Leicester describes four other museums, from Helsinki to Russia, which are consulting audiences as they create new styles of gallery space. M+H
Meanwhile Telegraph journalist Jonathan Glancey describes an unhappy visit to South Kensington museums and – after a nod to the busyness of August – blames ‘accessibility’ policy for the large number of restaurants and gift shops in the buildings. “Perhaps… because museum directors have been over-concerned with the fear of ‘elitism’, they themselves have transformed their charges into ace caffs aping airport lounges and shopping malls.” The pressure for revenue generation in an era of cuts does not feature prominently as the author retreats to the ‘daylight and space’ of a Wren Church in the City. In a 2015 article, the FT warned of the resources needed to keep City churches open, which are vigorously supported by an active friends group. One is currently on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register. Telegraph (paywall) FT, City AM
Protest against tourists across Europe – and planning for better tourist management
Cities and beauty spots across Europe, from the Isle of Skye to Amsterdam and Dubrovnik are offering a more qualified welcome to tourists as the volume becomes unmanageable in high season, or misshapes local housing markets. Cruise ships and the purchase of homes largely to let out through digital platforms can change the nature of areas very quickly, and there has been a spate of graffiti and protest in Spain as some locals try to deter the trade. The BBC programme Costing the Earth identifies some parts of London and Scotland as also needing greater management. Orkney is now a cruise ship stop off point. As a result, the island is more closely managing tourism around famous Neolithic sites such as Skara Brae, and is appointing someone to be in charge of tourism for the first time. Public bodies are also finding solutions in cities: from digital ‘nudges’ sent by mobile to encourage tourists away from high volume areas, and legally enforced limits to house letting in Amsterdam. In Venice, where the local population has halved and shops have been taken over by the tourist trade, there is pressure to start charging for entry to St Mark's Square. BBC (Costing the Earth – available for one month), Independent, The Art Newspaper
In late July the Home Secretary Amber Rudd asked the Migration Advisory Committee to carry out a major study into the role the UK’s 2.7m EU workers play in the economy and society. Amber Rudd said that leaving the EU would ‘bring down migration to sustainable levels’. She added that an implementation period would mean that there is no ‘cliff edge’ for EU nationals or employers. There will be a cross-government programme of engagement over the coming months with stakeholders from various sectors including businesses and educational institutions. Around 10% of the workforce at many UK national museums are from the EU. Gov.uk
The Family Arts Campaign is launching a new website on 1st October featuring year-round arts events of all kinds aimed at a family audience. The site replaces the Family Arts Festival website, which featured events only for a short festival period. Museums are encouraged to sign up and add their events ahead of launch, and tag @fantasticforfam to highlight events on twitter. Fantastic for Families
Small people in big spaces: programming for the under 5s
Hull Museums Partnership is holding a conference on how under 5s and families interact with the museum environment and how the sector can improve its offer. It is aimed at those working with pre-schoolers both in museums and in early years settings. Topics range from museum interpretation for under 5s, working with artists and delivering on social impact agendas. Tickets are free but booking is essential. Humber Museums Partnership
Nesta is holding an event to launch its report on matched crowdfunding – where money from traditional funders or philanthropists matches money raised through the crowd. Nesta backed 57 such arts and heritage projects over a year and the outcomes will be presented in the report. The event takes place at Nesta (Victoria Embankment, London) on 12th October from 9.30am–1pm and tickets are free. Nesta
A number of upcoming events will explore the synergies between health, wellbeing and the cultural sector:
Tate Modern is hosting an event from 5.30pm on 12th September to discuss arts and wellbeing. A panel will discuss current thinking and look at what evidence gaps need to be filled. The National Heritage Science Forum is co-hosting the event. Tickets are free but booking is essential. NHSF
The Heritage Alliance annual debate on 22nd October asks ‘Is Heritage good for your health?’ It asks what health claims can realistically be made by the sector, and where heritage best intersects with the health needs of the nation. The event takes place at the Waldorf Hilton, London. Early bird tickets before 22nd September are £8-£16. Heritage Alliance
A festival celebrating creativity in later life has been launched by the advocacy organisation Age of Creativity, running from 1st–14th October. Organisations working in arts, culture and care are invited to submit activities to the programme. The Stage, Age of Creativity
The Visitor Attractions Conference 2017 is an opportunity to get updates from VisitEngland speakers on funding options and tourism policy from the Discover England Fund to English Tourism Week. The event takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on 4th October. Tickets are £221 +VAT with some discounts for groups and students. Visit Britain,
The Culture Diary has moved to the Department for International Trade and is also working closely with DCMS on the ongoing GREAT tourism campaign. It has a remit to help cultural bodies and creative industries, including museums, to export and to extend their international reach. This includes helping cultural contingents join international trade missions. Contact [email protected] for further details. Culture Diary
Culture24 is inviting interested people to fill in its 10–15 minute survey on the social value of digital technology in museums ahead of its next social action research project. The project will be taking place in partnership with Happy Museum and Battersea Arts Centre. Whether your museum has already begun to see connections between social value and digital or not, Culture24 is keen for views. The deadline is 29th September. Culture24, Happy Museum
Last year, the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing carried out a major preliminary survey to map out work for wellbeing in heritage organisations. It is now updating its findings and invites museum professionals to fill in its 2017 survey. It should take 10–15 minutes to complete. A second report will be published in Spring 2018. Museums and Wellbeing Alliance
Can’t get audiences to fill in your surveys? Museums Galleries Scotland’s blog suggests a variety of inventive ways of extracting feedback from audiences who are bored by traditional methods. For very young participants, it recommends the evaluatively rigorous ‘talk like a pirate’ technique: ‘ooh’ for good things, ‘aaargh’ for bad and ‘aharrr!’ for new and exciting. MGS
Arts attendance one of the best indicators for generosity and volunteering
A new study, ‘The Arts as a Catalyst for Human Prosociality and Cooperation’ has found that arts attendance is a better indicator for giving to charity and volunteering than demographic factors such as gender, income, personality traits such as openness, and sports attendance. Only age and monthly savings had a larger effect. The researchers from the University of Kent used longitudinal data from 30,476 people. ACE is among the study’s funders; its Director of Communication Mags Patten said 'this paper makes a significant contribution to growing evidence of a causal link between taking part in the arts, individual wellbeing, and the strength of communities. This valuable piece of research will be important reading for those already studying in this vital area, and it should encourage new studies of the social impact of the arts.' Science Daily
Museums and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act
The Welsh ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’ promotes the personal and environmental wellbeing of Welsh people in the long term, covering issues from cohesive communities to health, Welsh language, prosperity and equality. Many of these goals overlap with the philosophy of the Happy Museum project, which is now working with a network of six Welsh museums to develop and test museum practice which will help fulfil the ambitions of the Act. The participating museums are are Monmouthshire Museums Service, Cardiff Story Museum, Ceredigion Museum, Wrexham Museum, Storiel and Oriel Yns Mon. The group hopes to demonstrate what museums can achieve through real examples, developed from their work. Happy Museum
ACE Policy Manager Ross Burnett has blogged about his experience of becoming a school governor, and encourages others from the cultural sector to consider it. He says it is not a role to be ‘taken up lightly’ but is valuable and interesting work. He learned how ‘tight the margins are in schools’ and how good programmes can be closed through small decisions at government level – but also how the dedication of individual staff members can have a transformative effect on what is possible. AND
ArtUK’s Art Detective digital service has turned three. The site aims to improve knowledge of the UK’s art collections by drawing on public knowledge. The site has so far helped with 100 discoveries about individual pieces, including artist attributions. A spokesperson for Manchester Art Gallery said “we have found Art Detective a fantastic tool that resulted in some amazing discoveries and ultimately a more complete set of collection information.” There are still 30,000 paintings with unknown artists on the ArtUK site, and 8,000 with unknown sitters. Art Detective (discoveries), Guardian
Easel hopes to widen access to visual arts careers
Even armed with a degree, breaking into the visual arts world can be challenging for those who do not have social connections, or cannot afford to work for free as an intern. A new not-for-profit called Easel hopes to widen access for students through grants and mentoring. Easel
Export bar for seal possibly belonging to Robert the Bruce
An export bar has been placed on a two-part seal matrix, which carries words which translate as ‘Robert, by Grace of God, the King of the Scots’. It is uncertain whether the object is an original seal of Robert the Bruce (1306–29) or a later copy, but either way it is of considerable significance and ‘opens up new avenues of research’. The asking price is £151,250, with a bar until 24th November with a possible extension to 24th February. Gov.uk
Government research on cyber security for charities
The Government has published a report on cyber security for charities as part of its wider work on the National Cyber Security Strategy. The report found that charities are no less likely to be targeted or to undergo a security breach than the business sector, but often suffer from lack of in-house expertise, especially in smaller charities, and from competing priorities. The companion business report has a more urgent tone and says that two in three UK businesses are unprepared to deal with a cyber attack. Many are also unprepared for the new data protection rules. Gov.uk (charities report), Gov.uk (business report)
DCMS is running a survey for employers as part of its work to assess what specialist digital skills are needed across the economy in many sectors. It is aimed at any business ‘with at least one person in a digital role’. The survey takes 15–20 minutes to complete. Gov.uk
Painting over masterpieces (without conservation mayhem)
Disney has produced an augmented reality app for tablets allowing young visitors to museums to repaint the pictures they see in their preferred colours as they wander art galleries. Images do not need to be preloaded: instead the visitor points their tablet at a chosen image and can select regions to recolour in ‘AR Museum’. Disney hopes that the app will interest children in images that they might not otherwise connect with. ALVA
The Museums Journal has published a summary of replies and changes suggested by museums in May in response to DCMS’s consultation on the new Data Protection Bill. Fines for being in breach of the act are up to £17m or 4% of turnover – the Natural History Museum suggested these should be appropriately minimised for public authorities. The National Portrait Gallery raised questions about the tension between the ‘right to be forgotten’ and the need to retain donor details for a number of years. NMDC has also written to the Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock about the details of the legislation. Elsewhere, Advertising Age warns of how much data protection changes will alter the status quo, predicting that it will 'rip the global digital ecosystem apart' for those used to trading in audience data. Museums Journal, Guardian
Also: National Galleries Scotland has launched a large, beautiful, complicated new website. Project manager Ashley Beamer explains the ingredients of successfully managing a large museum web project. Museums Computer Group
International: museums, contemporary politics and remembering conflict
Charlottesville: monuments and a matter of life and death
The white supremacist protest in Charlottesville against the removal of a statue of confederate leader General Lee has led to extensive media coverage of whether figures from the past with now discredited or contested views should continue to stand in towns and cities across the world. In Charlottesville itself, all statues of Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson were covered in black fabric to commemorate lawyer and civil rights activist Heather Heyer who was killed by a supremacist protestor during the unrest. Meanwhile, in Australia, graffiti on a statue of Captain Cook calling for its removal has become a political issue. Speaking on Newsnight in defence of the case for leaving contested statues in place, historian and Telegraph journalist Tim Stanley said that the presence of Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square represented the arc of the UK’s relationship to colonialism. He added that fierce political debate about statuary is not new: “When the idea of putting up the statue of Cromwell outside Parliament was debated in 1895 it nearly brought the government down, it was such a controversial statue”. Dr Rahul Rao of SOAS countered that statues like those of General Lee should be in museums in context, not ‘literally on a pedestal’ in cities. In the UK, one of the oldest examples of a contested monument still in place is the shrine to ‘Little Saint Hugh’ in Lincoln Cathedral. Used for hundreds of years to prop up the ‘blood libel’ that Jews murdered children for ritual purposes, since 1955 it has been accompanied by an explanation that “these fictions cost many innocent Jews their lives… such stories do not redound to the credit of Christendom.” Newsnight, Mic, Wikipedia, Guardian, Guardian (Captain Cook), Guardian (David Olusoga comment) New Statesman (William Gladstone), New Statesman (statues of Alison Lapper and Millicent Fawcett), The Conversation (General Lee), Medieval Academy blog
There has been a sit in protest at the Museum of Free Derry over the display of a list of those killed locally in 1969–1972 during the Troubles. Two relatives of the dead objected to their names appearing alongside those of state forces. The list had previously been on show at the museum since 2008, but received more attention from February this year following a redevelopment in which the context of the display changed. The museum has temporarily removed the display and there will be talks between interested parties with the help of a mediator. Museums Journal
Also: MA’s Alistair Brown has blogged on how museums in Sarajevo have recorded – or strategically ignored – the Bosnian war of 1992–95, and the choices some museums have had to make in order to stay open. Museums Journal
New Partition Museum ‘only memorial’ to events of 70 years ago
A new Partition Museum has opened in Amritsar, India, with 14 galleries commemorating the events of the 1947 Partition, which created Pakistan and the Indian Republic amidst much death and violence. Amritsar became a border overnight as the state of Punjab was split in two. The museum says that it is unaware of any other ‘memorial, designated space or commemoration’ marking partition, which caused the displacement and migration of 20 million people, who often lost everything in the process. M+H
Also: The Art Newspaper has published a roundup of new or radically transformed art museums opening around the world in the autumn and winter, frequently including landmark architecture. Among them is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, opening in a former grain silo in Cape Town, South Africa. The Art Newspaper
British Council funding cut to zero in developed countries
The FCO is planning to cut the British Council’s grant for work in the developed world to zero from 2019–20. Currently it receives £39m, expected to reduce to £13m in 2018–19. This means that from 2019 the British Council will be able to fund ongoing work only through earned income from exams and English teaching. A British Council spokeswoman told the Museums Journal “while we will still be able to fund a minimal level of activity in the developed world, this will affect our work in these countries and support for the arts and education sectors across the UK. Our culture and education activities in countries with developing economies will continue to be well-supported by the core grant-in-aid.” The plan for a 100% cut was first laid before the June 2016 EU referendum. The heads of Edinburgh’s International and Fringe Festivals have written to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warning of the damage if the plan goes ahead in the changed political climate. Museums Journal, Arts Professional, The Stage
Some cuts but growing footfall at National Heritage Centre for Horseracing
Palace House Newmarket, which houses the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art, is reluctantly cutting staff numbers less than a year after opening because of smaller than anticipated revenues. The Horseracing heritage attraction has doubled footfall to 23k since its move from a previous site on Newmarket High Street where it closed in 2006, a smaller growth than initially forecast. Managers say that the cuts will not affect the visitor experience at the site which was shortlisted for Museum of the Year in 2017. Museums Journal
The artist and the garden: rebalancing the programme at Inverleith House
Last year there was protest and a 10,000 strong petition after Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens announced it would close Inverleith House, a space in its grounds which shows regular contemporary art exhibitions. Simon Milne, the garden’s Regius Keeper says that the venue attracted only 2% of the 900,000 visitors to the gardens, but cost £160k to run. Now a working group has recommended a more integrated programme of ‘science, horticulture and the arts at the garden’ so there is more cohesion between the different offers at the site. The gallery’s first show under the new remit is ‘Plant Scenery of the World’ featuring contemporary art responses to the botanical setting. Apollo Magazine, The Art Newspaper
Museums face merge as historic buildings need substantial repairs
The future of Gloucester Life Museum is uncertain as a local council report suggests merging it with the Museum of Gloucester to save £30k per year in running costs. Gloucester Civic Trust has expressed some interest in taking over the 16th and 17th century houses where the museum currently lives, but will first need to find a funder for £1m in repairs needed to the fabric. Issues such as whether previous grants from HLF and ACE will need to be repaid if the Gloucester Life Museum moves are also under consideration. A number of staff have recently been made redundant. Museums Journal