National Gallery aims to become a ‘hybrid digital institution’ in its five year plan
The National Gallery aims to reach a digital audience of ‘many hundreds of millions’ over the next five years, creating a digital media business and redefining the Gallery in the run up to its 200th birthday in 2024. This will build on a 50% rise in its online audiences in 2020 – 21. The Gallery envisages a programme for members including documentary film, live and interactive events, and online education courses. However, it expects to reach most audiences not through its website, but across social media, including new presences on TikTok and Snapchat. Other strands of its plan include previously announced capital works to its building, including a new Research Centre, and the creation of a national learning service ‘increasing participation in areas of greatest need’. National Gallery, Telegraph, M + H
NMS gives an initial snapshot of audiences as museums in Scotland reopen
Museums across Scotland opened on 26th April, the first time that widespread opening has been possible this year. Giving an early snapshot of the visitor picture, National Museums Scotland said “our visitor numbers reflect that people are being slightly cautious about returning but with a higher demand for timed slots at the weekends, which is to be expected as we have reopened during the school term. Additionally, this time round we are releasing tickets over a longer period of time so people have a wider range of dates from which to choose.” Highly interactive galleries remain closed, but NMS has innovated with popular alternative options, including an outdoor Willow Sculpture Trail featuring life-sized animals, and wonders of the world made from Lego at the National Museum of Flight, including a 60,000 brick Concorde. Meanwhile The Scotsman highlights ten Scottish museums and new exhibitions now open. East Lothian Courier, The Scotsman
NPG launches first ‘voice interactive digital portrait’ featuring musician Nile Rodgers
The National Portrait Gallery has launched a new interactive featuring the musician Nile Rodgers discussing his life and work, with users able to use a ‘voice interactive’ to ask him 300 questions, creating the sense of a live conversation. The taster version is free online, with a pass to the whole experience available for £20, 5% of which goes to NPG. The project is a collaboration with Universal Music UK, and is the result of two days of interviews in front of two 3D film cameras. Nile covers his work with David Bowie, Diana Ross and Daft Punk over a long career – and his multiple Grammy Awards as a guitarist, singer, songwriter and record producer. Here in the Room
Images this month: Bowie in Brighton, and Coffee Pot turns 150
Images this month come from the summer programme of Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust in Brighton. Exhibitions include ‘A Prince’s Treasure’ featuring spectacular items of decorative art and furniture owned by King George IV, and ‘Rock n’ Roll with Me – Bowie/MacCormack 1973’, a photography exhibition of David Bowie’s early career. Its Fine Art gallery also reopens with ‘Down from London: Spencer Gore & Friends’. Meanwhile at Beamish, the steam locomotive Coffee Pot No. 1 is looking immaculate as it turns 150. The museum says “we are proud to have such a resilient little machine in our collection – Coffee Pot being one of the oldest railway locomotives in working condition in the world.” Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust (summer programme), Beamish
Latest reopening plans and guidance for the four UK nations
Museums will begin to reopen in England from 17th Inews, NMDC (updated reopening guidance).
The Northern Ireland Executive has provisionally announced that indoor visitor and cultural attractions can reopen on 24th May, although this date is subject to revision. Outdoor attractions and hospitality reopened in late April. Museums Journal
Welsh museums will reopen on 17th May, subject to a review on 13th The Welsh Government also updated its guidance for tourism and hospitality businesses on 23rd April. Welsh Government (tourism guidance), Museums Journal
The Scottish Government has published additional guidance for museums following reopening on 26th In particular, museums need to calculate their physical distancing capacity and display it on the front of venues, collect details from anyone using a café or restaurant, and are strongly recommended to also collect details from those entering the museum. MGS, Scottish Government
Changes to Good Practice Guidelines for Reopening Museums
NMDC has added four updates to its Good Practice Guidelines for Reopening Museums over the past month, including detail on the restrictions in Step 3 on indoor groups and more information on ventilation. Scroll to the bottom of the page here to see the latest changes. NMDC
ACE revises its Government Indemnity Scheme guidance to address ventilation
ACE has published its fourth revision to the Government Indemnity Scheme since the beginning of the pandemic. Recent changes cover ventilation, with guidance advising that increasing ventilation should be balanced against issues such as pollution, energy, noise, security, health, well-being and environmental conditions. ACE
Also: The MA has expressed concern at the new and more stringent Test and Trace requirements, which now mean everyone must leave contact details, not just one person in each party. Policy Manager Alistair Brown said “It seems likely that this will cause unnecessary crowding at entrances for some museums, as well as additional paperwork for those museums that aren’t using a digital system.” Museums Journal
Two UK-wide social media campaigns #BackToMuseums and #MissingMuseums are encouraging people to return to museums and galleries as they begin to reopen. The MA’s #BackToMuseums asks people what they are looking forward to (with the general atmosphere, food and a bit of museum shopping being popular replies). IWM has launched the #MissingMuseums campaign, focusing on objects, exhibitions and everyday experiences. Museums are invited to join in with either or both campaigns on social media. Museums Journal, IWM (twitter)
Support for museum reopening in Scotland, including the #MuseumsAreGo campaign
Meanwhile museums in Scotland are encouraged to participate in the MGS #MuseumsAreGo marketing campaign. MGS is also running several surgery sessions until June to offer support in marketing and getting ready for the new tourist season. Museums are invited to add themselves to a Google map of open venues, and make use of the promotional reopening video. MGS (surgeries), MGS (reopening marketing toolkit), MGS (tips for a no-budget reopening campaign), MGS (download campaign assets), Museums Journal, MGS
Museum Accreditation scheme reopens for those making new applications
ACE’s museum accreditation scheme is partly reopening, after more than a year on hold. It will focus initially on museums new to the scheme, so that they can benefit as soon as possible. These applications will be fast-tracked, however museums must be open to the public when applying. The scheme will reopen to already accredited museums around October; all those with existing accredited status will retain this until at least 1st April 2022. Museums Journal, ACE (blog), ACE
Government still considering Covid-19 certification – but not earlier than Step 4
The Government is still considering whether to ask the public to show a Covid-19 certificate to gain entry to some public sites, including museums, although this will not happen until Step 4 which begins on June 21st at the earliest. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said that he had spoken with cultural and entertainment groups as part of the review process, as well as drawing from experience in Israel and Denmark. In a statement to the Covid 19 Certification review in March, NMDC opposed certification as being ‘at odds with the public mission and values of museums’, burdensome, a barrier to the recovering economy and ‘an inappropriate form of exclusions and discrimination’. AIM Chair Andrew Lovett has also written that ‘on balance’ he opposes Covid certification. NMDC (comment from cultural bodies), NMDC (statement to Review), Parliament UK, AIM
Denmark becomes the first EU country to require Covid-19 status certificates for museum entry
Denmark has announced that a ‘coronapas’ will be necessary for entry to its museums from 6th May – with the pass available in digital or paper form, and showing either a vaccination, a negative test in the previous 72 hours or a positive test 2 – 12 weeks previously. Schoolchildren visiting in classes are exempt. Karen Gron, Director of the Trapholt Museum of Modern Art and Design finds the plan inconsistent, given that they are not required in typically more crowded supermarkets, but thinks that Danes will adapt. Although the EU is considering plans for a single pass for member states, and Sweden is interested in the Denmark model, no firm plans have yet been made in Europe. Although Israel also has a ‘green pass’ for some venues, museums are exempt from the scheme. Art Newspaper
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that The NHS app will be used as a Covid passport for travel outside the UK. He said that countries which can be visited without quarantine will be finalised in the next couple of weeks. However, the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus struck a more cautious note in an April report warning that international leisure travel could import new variants into the UK. It also called for the Government to lead on an international standard of proof for a negative Covid-19 test, to prevent fraudulent certifications. Sky, Coronavirus APPG
International: a global picture of museums and the pandemic
UNESCO reveals that museums worldwide have lost 50% in public subsidies
A UNESCO report, ‘museums around the world in the face of COVID-19’, gives a snapshot of the sector’s situation based on responses from 87 out of 193 states over the past year. The report found that:
Only 14 countries reported no closures - including Sweden, Paraguay, Malawi and Bahrain.
Roughly a third of countries said museums were closed for more than 181 days, including the UK.
Job losses in museums have been particularly rapid and significant in countries reliant on market and philanthropy funding, such as the US and UK. A third of states also mention job losses in the wider museum economy, including freelancers and craftspeople.
Levels of public subsidy in response to the crisis have varied by country: a quarter, including Belgium and Canada saw increases, in another quarter including Brazil and China subsidy remained stable, but in 50% subsidies fell, with museums in Mexico losing 60% of state support.
Among the 52 countries which reported on budget losses in 2020, there was an average decline of between 40 – 60% of income.
ICOM publishes second global snapshot of museums coping with the pandemic
The International Council of Museums has published a second report on how museums globally are coping with the pandemic. Data was collected from September – October 2020 – so is several months old and does not capture the second wave in Europe. Nevertheless, the 900 responses from across five continents gives a useful long-term picture of sector trends.
Since April 2020, the number of museum professionals fearing that their institution would close permanently fell from 12.8% to 6%, but half think that their museum will cut hours.
31% of museums said they will downsize permanent staff, rising to 46% for temporary contracts.
Roughly a quarter said that they could rely on emergency funds, and/or salary support for employees, but half of all museums said they had no support funding. This markedly varies by region: with half of North American institutions accessing emergency support, and just over a quarter in Europe and the Pacific, but 8% in Africa and 11% in Arab countries.
Museums have also had varying capacities to shift to digital: 20% had no digital staff, 57% had no full-time digital posts, and 20% do have full-time digital workers. 29% said they spend 1 – 5% of budget on digital activity, the most popular proportion, with only 12% of museums spending more than 10%.
Useful pie charts offer a visually led snapshot of regional variation on topics ranging from museums security to conservation and areas of digital work. ICOM
Culture organisations publish open letter to the Prime Minister calling for progress on EU visas
300 cultural organisations, have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling for progress towards cutting ‘a mountain of costly bureaucracy and red tape’ when touring to the EU. Co-ordinated by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, signatories include the Royal Shakespeare Company, Museums Association and Road Haulage Association. The group says that despite offering ‘workable solutions’ during meetings with senior civil servants, there has been no progress for three months. Its core requests are the negotiation of a Visa Waiver Agreement with the EU, and work to reduce the adverse effect of road haulage rules which make pan-European tours ‘impossible for UK established touring companies’. It also seeks interim emergency funding to help creatives with the current additional costs of touring. Meanwhile, Lord Frost has agreed to appear before the DCMS committee on 10th June to answer questions on what the Government is doing to avoid ‘irreparable damage’, particularly to the performing arts. Arts Professional, Incorporated Society of Musicians (open letter), BBC, Parliament.uk, Museums Journal
Science Museum Group announces plans to become carbon neutral by 2033
The Science Museum Group has published its plan to become carbon neutral by 2033, ahead of the UK Government’s own revised target of a 78% reduction by 2035. SMG will focus on buildings operations, goods and services. Its biodiversity-supporting plans include bee hives on the Science Museum roof and planting 1000 trees every year. It is also encouraging its ten biggest suppliers to decarbonise. The museum recently launched an exhibition on carbon capture ‘Our Future Planet’, which is currently online but available live when the museum reopens on 19th May. New technologies such as Klaus Lackner’s Mechanical Tree sit side by side with nature-based solutions. The exhibition has received some criticism from contributors for its sponsorship by BP; Director Sir Ian Blatchford told Museums Journal "SMG is transparent about its long-standing relationship with a limited number of energy companies and how, in all such partnerships, we retain editorial control." New capital works at SMG sites also have a strong environmental element:
The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester has been awarded £4.3m through the Government’s public sector decarbonisation scheme. Its plans include water and air source heat pumps, roof insulation, and building management systems that should collectively save the equivalent to the average carbon output of 30 homes.
At National Railway Museum a £55m redevelopment plan includes a new wooden Central Hall building with natural light and a sustainable design; more insulation and a move away from gas boilers which currently account for 75% of operational carbon. Director Judith McNichol adds that having working steam engines as part of the museum’s offer is not incompatible with environmental action. The trains currently account for 3% of carbon expended, and new technology including engines that need less coal, and synthetic coal are being explored.
Coventry City of Culture lays down ‘Green Code’ of minimum sustainability standards
Coventry City of Culture has set down minimum environmental standards for its own team and all who work on the project. This includes banning internal UK flights except in ‘exceptional circumstances’, advocating buying local where possible for materials, and considering the whole life cycle of objects, compostable packaging for catering, avoiding chemical toilets and calculating the carbon footprint of activity. Arts Professional, Coventry 2021 (Green Code detail)
The upcycling Georgians: lessons from slow fashion
Clothes were far more expensive for the Georgians, who typically spent a third of household income on them – and then lovingly altered and repaired garments over several years. Leeds Museums, which has previously addressed fast fashion in its exhibitions, shows through twitter how storytelling about repairs from the past can speak to modern concerns. Leeds Museums (twitter)
£1m domestic tourism campaign to revive central London – with a suggestion of longer opening hours for museums
The Mayor of London has announced a £1m campaign to attract domestic tourists to London’s Central Activities Zone (CAZ). The programme will range from major events highlighting cultural attractions, to support for more al fresco dining. It is estimated that without action, London could have up to 86,000 fewer jobs by 2031, shrinking the economy by £36bn, with retail, hospitality and culture likely to be particularly affected. The £1m spending through the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) is in addition to £5m already announced for the reopening of the capital. A report published alongside the funding announcement also makes suggestions about how London’s offer will have to change – perhaps including museums and other cultural attractions extending opening hours into the evening, in response to shifting working patterns. Work will also continue to create a more ‘sustainable, healthy and green’ urban centre, encouraging more walking and cycling between venues. Councillor Georgia Gold, Chair of London Councils said “because central London accounts for 26% of all employment in the capital, the economic damage and job losses here have a massive impact on the wider London economy and the communities we serve. Getting central London back on its feet and attracting visitors and investment will be key to London’s post-pandemic recovery.”Mayor of London, Arts Professional
First locate your audience: changing employment and commuting patterns
Although still in flux, it seems likely that work patterns will permanently shift in the aftermath of the pandemic. Some new data is beginning to explore these patterns, particularly in London.
Recent research from Australia suggests that diverse companies with a more even gender balance are more open to flexible working, with male dominated firms most likely to insist that workers return to their desks. Eat Sleep Work Repeat
The April edition of the Social Market Foundation’s London coronavirus economy tracker explores what zoom, online tourism and reduced tourism will mean for jobs in the capital. Commuter spend in London fell by £2bn in 2020, and 31% of Londoners think they will travel less to work in future – higher than the 23% national average. Londoners are also keener on ‘always’ or ‘often’ working from home, with rates 10% higher than the rest of the country. SMF concludes that job losses in Central London may be balanced by higher footfall in local neighbourhoods. SMF (see page 14)
Polling among 500 business leaders for the London Chamber of Commerce found that 52% said they would continue homeworking in some form once the pandemic is over, and 41% have reduced office space in the last year. LCC’s Chief Executive Richard Burge said “that will mean less commuters daily in certain parts of London than pre-covid. Clearly this presents challenge for support businesses in those areas. Meanwhile more people will remain in their ‘home’ boroughs each day, and that brings potential opportunity to those areas.” London Chamber of Commerce
Sentiment trackers in brief: audiences keen to return, but with a large cautious minority
Wave 8 of ALVA’s recovery tracker, covers 21st – 27th April and is based on responses from a group that had visited at least one attraction in 2019. Of these, 3% had already visited a museum or gallery this year, 28% will do so as soon as they can, and 45% will wait and see what happens. Only 25% said they were unlikely to visit for a long time – down 10% from early March. This is also 14% more positive for visiting already/soon than as lockdown ended in July 2020. However the report adds ‘a fear of crowds has become ingrained for many’. ALVA
VisitBritain’s latest statistics, gathered from 19th – 23rd April, show that a third feel confident about taking an overnight trip in May, rising to 53% in July and 60% by August. However, the top reason for not taking a UK overnight trip in the summer is a fear of catching Covid-19 at 38%. VisitBritain
The ONS people and community survey shows 60% leaving home to meet others outside their childcare or support bubble in the period 21st – 25th ONS
ONS figures on business show that the ‘arts, entertainment and recreation’ sectors still have 53% of staff on partial or furlough leave – the highest of any sector, with food and accommodation providers at 44.8%. ONS
A gleam of light for Florence (plus a new women’s museum)
Florence Nightingale Museum to reopen for one day each month and for school visits
The Florence Nightingale Museum has been among the worst hit by the pandemic, losing all but three staff and announcing in January that it would close for at least several months. Now £64.5k from the Cultural Recovery Fund, plus private donations mean that it will be able to open for one Saturday each month, beginning on 5th June, as well as welcoming group visits and school parties by appointment. Director David Green said he expects tough competition for limited footfall as museums reopen, so “our strategy has..had to be to try and control our overall costs, while offering some visitor access, thus reducing the financial deficit that we cannot help but forecast over 2021/22.”Arts Industry, Florence Nightingale Museum, Florence Nightingale Museum (200th anniversary online) Museums Journal
Jack the Ripper Museum closes, while East End Women’s Museum plans opening in Barking
The Whitechapel-based Jack the Ripper Museum, criticised since its opening in 2015 for glamorising murder, has closed and is now for sale by auction starting at £685k. The sale notice says there is ‘potential for redevelopment’. The attraction had initially gained planning permission by claiming it would ‘recognise and celebrate the women of the East End’, causing local residents to argue that the Council had been tricked. Organisers of The East End Women’s Museum, which plans to open in Barking in 2022, welcomed the closure news. East End Women’s Museum is currently recruiting local people onto its steering committee to plan the stories that it will tell. My London, NMDC (newsletter, 2015), East End Women’s Museum
Report reveals the impact of trusts and foundations in supporting the cultural sector
A new report by the Art Funders Group has tracked giving by the 19 largest trusts and foundations, during 2019 – 20, the last year of ‘old normal’ funding patterns prior to the pandemic. The report finds that:
The 19 Trusts and Foundations spent £88m, or 31% of total activity on arts and culture, with £197m spent in other areas.
The proportion of income from this source is 11.4% for cultural organisations with a turnover under £200k, 14% for those from £200k - £750k and then gradually declines with size, so £10m+ organisations receive 3.9% from this source.
The four highest spending Trusts are responsible for 75% of the total grant expenditure (Esmée Fairbairn, Garfield Weston, Paul Hamlyn and Wolfson Foundations).
Literature organisations received the greatest proportion of their funding from trusts and foundations at 17.2%, and museums the lowest at 4.8% (this may in part be because literature organisations are typically smaller).
However, museums and museum representative bodies appear in the top ten non-capital awards by value, including the Museums Association (£4.17m), Tate (£1.3m), and National Museum Wales (£3.16m). Snape Maltings received the largest amount overall at £8.37m.
The largest capital award went to the Royal Opera House (£10.8m) with five museums also receiving significant capital investment between £716k (Wallace Collection) and £1.6m (IWM).
Areas of particular focus by trusts and foundations include diversifying the workforce (emphasised by just under a third) and a similar proportion interested in cultural assets – from building work to art restoration.
95% of grants are £300k or less, and half are £50k or less. Only 11 grants were over £1m, and only 18 grantees received funding over £1m from multiple bids.
34% of successful grants were to a London address, with other UK countries and English regions receiving 3.1% - 8.7%, but this doesn’t capture the ‘area of benefit’ or distinguish between nation-wide or non-national activity.
John Ellerman Foundation Director Sufina Ahmad said “Independent grant-makers coming together and sharing their data in this way was an important exercise to commit to – even if it did feel experimental at times. The research reveals the contribution we are making to the UK’s arts and cultural sectors, which will become even more important as organisations look to recover from the impacts of Covid-19 against a backdrop of stretched public funding.” Arts Professional, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Arts Industry
£3m fundraiser to bring steam trawler from Antarctica to Hull
A £3m fundraising campaign has been launched to bring the 100 year old steam trawler Viola back to Yorkshire, from the ex-whaling station Grytviken in South Georgia, close to Antarctica. The funds will also cover restoration of the sound but rusting ship, and the creation of an education centre, which would complement plans for Maritime History museum developments in Hull city centre. Museums Journal
DCMS committee discusses Cultural Recovery Fund and future of the sector
ACE CEO Darren Henley and Chair Sir Nicholas Serota have spoken to the DCMS Committee in a one-off meeting to discuss how swiftly it disbursed the Cultural Recovery Fund, and post-pandemic plans. They said that none of the organisations ACE dealt with have ceased trading because of the timing of payments. 40% of those funded in round one, and 23% of those funded in round two were new to ACE. ACE also made around 43,000 grants, compared with 17,000 in an ordinary year. DCMS aimed to support 75% of organisations at risk through the CRF, but Henley said he expected that far fewer than 25% of organisations would go to the wall as a consequence of the pandemic. Serota also flagged that a second report of the Durham Commission on cultural education would be published in the summer, which will highlight how much groups have missed creative activity. Damien Green highlighted the failure of funds to trickle down to freelancers; Henley said that the revised ‘Develop your creative practice’ fund is now much larger, and offers support to a wider group of cultural sector freelancers. Parliament TV, DCMS committee (twitter summary), Arts Professional
RMG Chair resigns after Government refuses to reappoint trustee
It has now been widely reported that Sir Charles Dunstone, Chair of Royal Museums Greenwich resigned in February, after the Government moved to block the reappointment as a trustee of Aminul Hoque, an education academic at Goldsmiths, University of London. Hoque was only the third person from an ethnic minority background on RMG’s Board, and led the response to Black Lives Matter last year. Reports say that Hoque was blocked because of an interest in decolonisation of museum collections. Colleagues at RMG described him as a ‘devoted and conscientious trustee’. Neither RMG nor Durstone have commented – Hoque told the Financial Times that he was ‘shocked, disappointed and baffled’ by his removal from the board. MA Director Sharon Heal was among those objecting to the Government’s intervention. She said “museums need boards that reflect a diversity of views and trustees that represent our communities. It is concerning that when museums are striving to be more inclusive in terms of governance, workforce and audiences, it appears that some people are being deliberately excluded from boards because they don’t comply with certain opinions.” A Government spokesman told the Financial Times “all reappointments are considered in line with the government code for public appointments. There is no automatic presumption of reappointment, and indeed in the vast majority of cases, fresh talent is added with new appointments made.” Last month, the Government also refused to reappoint two women to the Board of Channel 4, including one of only two women of colour. Museums Journal, FT (paywall), Times, Art Newspaper, Guardian, Guardian (Channel 4)
BM’s ‘Where we are…’ programme announces partners for its first year
The British Museum’s new ‘Where we are…’ programme, which aims to give agency and opportunities for creativity to young people aged 18 – 24, has announced its first group of partners in three cities across the UK. Each brings together a cultural sector and third sector group. They are:
This is the first year of a programme funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to run to 2025. It will pay young participants a £30 stipend per session plus travel for their in-depth involvement. Ten will now be recruited at each site, to lead on development and delivery of cultural projects, picking up project management, communication and creative problem-solving skills. British Museum
The Museum as Muck network, for people from a working class background employed in museums, has launched a website for its work, featuring membership options for individuals and its offer for working with museums and organisations. Museum as Muck
Government proposes 50% cut for Ofs support for university arts education
Earlier this year Education Secretary Gavin Williamson proposed plans to cut funding from the Office for Students for arts and design courses across higher education institutions in England by 50%. He said that spending should concentrate on ‘high-cost, high-value subjects that support the NHS’ and STEM subjects. This would mean a reduction per arts student from £243 to £121, and from £36m to £19m across the whole budget. Performing arts, media studies and archaeology would also be affected by the cuts, and University College London will be among the most affected, losing £5.8m. The Public Campaign for the Arts and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker are among those opposing these plans. The consultation period has now closed and DfE said that it is now considering input. It told The Guardian that the cuts would only affect a small proportion of income to universities. Guardian, Art Newspaper
Better broadband for rural and remote areas of the UK
Around 20% of the country in rural and remote areas is defined as Very Hard to Reach, with both businesses and home addresses shut out from the benefits of faster broadband. DCMS has now launched a consultation to improve the situation and is seeking views from businesses and individuals. Gov.uk, (See also under ‘digital’ for new funding in this area).
Department for Education seeks views on flexi-job apprenticeships
The Department for Education is consulting on the idea of flexi-job apprenticeships, where apprentices move between a series of short contracts within a sector, such as the creative industries, rather than remaining with a single employer for an extended period. The deadline for giving views is 1st June. Gov.uk
The Association of Independent Museums has announced its 2021 annual conference, ‘Supporting, Sharing, Strengthening’ focused on learning from the pandemic and facing the future. Speakers include Culture Minister Oliver Dowden, Tim Parker Chair of the National Trust, joint CEOs of Birmingham Museums Trust Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah, Amy Shakespeare, Innovation Manager at Cornwall Museums Partnership and many others. The event takes place online from 16th – 18th June. Early bird tickets are £45 for members and £90 for non-members. There are also a small number of training grants for AIM members, particularly aimed at freelancers and those attending for the first time. AIM (booking and programme), AIM (scroll to bottom for training grants), AIM
The British Museum has announced the final two events for museum professionals in its Knowledge Share Spring Event Series:
Space Invaders, the network promoting women leading in museums is holding an interactive workshop with MA Director Sharon Heal and Melissa Strauss, plus a keynote from Dhikshana Turakhia Pering, Head of Engagement & Skills at Somerset House. The event takes place on 11th May at 3pm. NPConference
The National Archives, Stillpoint Spaces and The Black, African, Asian Therapy Network discuss their collaboration on psychologically processing material relating to racism, colonialism and empire. The event takes place on 18th May from 4pm. NPConference
Most of the previous Knowledge Share events are now available to watch again on the BM’s YouTube channel. British Museum
Museums and Markets: perspectives on income generation in a post pandemic world
An event taking an international look at income generation is being hosted online by Chapman University (USA). Speakers include Karol Wight, Director of the Corning Museum of Glass, Chris Michaels, Director of Digital at the National Gallery and Raivis Sīmansons , Curator at the Žanis Lipke Memorial. The event takes place from 18th – 20th May and is free. Chapman University
New Clore Leadership programme focuses on systemic change and inclusive culture
Clore Leadership is opening a new ‘Inclusive Cultures’ six month development programme for leaders wishing to take radical steps towards systemic change, involving D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent perspectives. Led by disabled people, it will consist of three half-day seminars, four group coaching sessions and flexible study time, running from late June. There are 50 fully funded places available for successful applicants. The deadline is 3pm on 14th May. Clore Leadership
Digital Skills Day – free online training from the AMA
The Arts Marketing Association is hosting a Digital Skills Day – consisting of a plenary session followed by five breakout groups. Topics covered include digital strategy, analytics and storytelling, website user experience, effective emails, volunteers and social media. The event takes place on 10th June from 10am. Digital Skills Day is part of the wider Digital Heritage Lab programme aimed at small and medium sized heritage organisations and supported by AMA, One Further, the Collections Trust and Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy. Other options include ‘how to build a Wordpress website’ and ‘reaching digitally excluded audiences’. A recent case study from Hereford Cathedral shows how it used Heritage Lab mentoring to develop its lockdown programming, including virtual work experience and a filmed event series. AMA (Digital Heritage Lab overview), AMA (Digital Skills Day), Culture Hive (Hereford Cathedral), AMA (Digital Heritage Lab full programme)
Creativity and Wellbeing Week is taking place from 17th – 23rd May with partners including the Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance. Organisations, including museums, are invited to add relevant online events to the festival website. The Wallace Collection is among the participants with its series of ‘Looking with Mindfulness’ events, aimed at older adults. Wallace Collection, Creativity and Wellbeing
Season for Ex-change two: embedding climate action in creative work
Season for Change has launched an eight week programme for cultural organisations, producers and curators interested in embedding climate action in artistic and creative work. Events announced so far include ‘6 months to COP26: an alternative briefing’ from 4 – 5pm on 6th May. Other topics include handling burnout and crisis fatigue, activation and community organising and justice issues. Season for Change
Civic Universities Conference: working with the cultural sector beyond the pandemic
The Civic Universities Network is holding its inaugural conference ‘Universities Working in Partnership’. Covering a range of topics including sustainability, regional growth and education, there is a dedicated session on ‘the art of place: the civic role of universities and the cultural sector beyond the pandemic’. The event takes place from 18th – 20th May, but the deadline for booking is noon on 13th May. Tickets are free. Civic Universities Network
Association of Cultural Enterprises Conference – from museum cafes to the future of the high street
The Cultural Enterprises Conference for 2021 will give practical advice and case studies to help cultural organisations develop their commercial offer. Speakers include Garden Museum Director Christopher Woodward on its innovations in the past year, Catherine Erdly about changes to expect in the UK high street, Leeds Museums’ Linda Ribeiro on rebuilding a successful café, and a panel discussion on sustainability in cultural trading. The event takes place from 24th – 27th May. Tickets are £99 + VAT for individuals or £300 + VAT for groups. 25 bursary places are available, including for freelancers, those made redundant, cultural venues and suppliers. AofCE (bursaries), AofCE (programme)
Changing the World: Environmental Breakdown and Natural Science Collections
The Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA) is holding its annual conference with the theme ‘Changing the World: Environmental breakdown and natural science collections’. The programme includes virtual tours at Tate Geological Museum and Norwich Castle Museum, talks on reducing plastic, new natural history displays at The Box, Plymouth and natural science collections in home education. The event takes place from 27th – 28th May. Tickets are free with NatSCA membership, which is £20. NatSCA
New Rebuilding Heritage events: managing hybrid teams and organisational change
The Rebuilding Heritage programme of free resources and webinars has announced new dates for its one off events and comprehensive support programmes:
‘Managing hybrid teams’ on 13th May from 2pm looks at how to address new work patterns that may include all home working, or a mixture of work remotely and on site.
‘Managing organisational change’ on 24th June from 2pm looks at dynamic approaches to change.
More dates for standalone events, running through to July will be added shortly.
Two new rounds of a more comprehensive package of one-to-one support have also been announced, with deadline of 13th May and 8th Open to organisations and individuals, these cover issues from communications strategy with the Media Trust to business support with Creative United and fundraising with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.
Additionally, there is group training on issues from leadership to financial literacy and managing wellbeing.
The Art Fund has launched its search for the Museum of the Year 2021. It is encouraging applications from museums, galleries and historic houses of all sizes, and regardless of whether they have been forced to close physical spaces over the past year. The prize will seek to reward the ‘resilience and imagination’ of museums in adapting to the pandemic. Acknowledging that it has ‘taken huge resource just to keep the plates spinning ‘ and that many museums are in emergency mode, the application process has been simplified this year, and consists of three questions:
What did you do in the last year which showed imagination and determination?
How did this make a difference?
How will you build on this in the future?
Longlisted museums will be invited to present their applications to judges, who will then shortlist based on these conversations. The judging panel will be led by Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman and will include Tate Director and NMDC Chair Maria Balshaw, The Common Guild Director Katrina Brown, Google’s Suhair Khan and artist Thomas J Price. The winner will receive £100k, with four runners up getting £15k each – an increase of £5k on last year’s runners up prize. The deadline for applications is midday on 1st June 2021. Art Fund (application forms), Art Fund (press release), Museums Journal
Nominations open for the Family Friendly Museum Award 2021
The Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award has opened for 2021. After a one-off focus on digital activities in 2020, this year will look at the hard work, innovation and dedication of museum staff – both on site and online. There are categories for small, medium and large museums and new categories of Best Accessible Museum and Best Digital Activity. Kids in Museums’ Executive Director Alison Bowyer said: “we want to recognise museums’ remarkable creativity and perseverance in challenging times, as well as ensure the voices of all families remain front and centre as museums reopen.” Museum staff and members of the public can nominate museums by 5pm on 7th June. After visits by undercover family judges, the winners will be announced in October. Kids in Museums
The National Lottery Heritage Fund is seeking nominations of individuals, projects and young people for its annual Heritage Heroes award. Any organisation that has received National Lottery funding is eligible to apply, with a deadline of midnight on 7th June. NLHF
The Heritage Volunteering Group is seeking nominations for Volunteer Leader of the Year Award, in a year when the nature of volunteering has changed enormously, including a shift to online work. The deadline for nominations is 14th May. Museums Journal
National Gallery and Lowry receive new works through Acceptance in Lieu
The National Gallery has received 'Portrait of a Girl' by Isaack Luttichuys, painted around 1650, through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. The Lowry has also received a painting of David Lloyd-George’s birthplace by LS Lowry, painted in 1958 and gifted in lieu of £262.5k of inheritance tax. Lowry Chief Executive Julia Fawcett said: “Lowry often recorded the ebb and flow of people’s daily lives – and the striking absence of any living soul in this work is an unsettling reminder of what we have all experienced over the last year. We can’t wait to share it with the public when our galleries re-open in May.”National Gallery (twitter), Lowry
Making it FAIR pilot recruits eight smaller museums to help them reach digital audiences
Smaller museums have often found it more difficult to gain the skills to engage audiences during lockdown and beyond. Now a pilot programme, Making it FAIR has recruited eight to receive mentoring, training and technical support. The eight include the Foxton Canal Museum in Leicestershire, Museum of Scottish Railways and West Lothian and Somme Museum, County Down. The programme is supported by a range of partners including the Collections Trust, Culture24 and Museum of London Archaeology, who will disseminate learning points from the pilot to the wider sector. Archaeology Data Service (project overview), ADS (pilot participants)
Collections Trust retires Culture Grid this autumn
The Collections Trust will retire its ten-year-old collections system this autumn, and replace it with a new, more sustainable national database. It has been closed to new accessions since 2015. Chief Executive Kevin Gosling said that the old database would remain online for “as long as it is needed and when there's a better replacement for it, at that point, we'll switch it off.” The Trust is now collaborating with the £18.9m Towards A National Collection programme. Museums Journal
Brunel Museum launches ‘most cinematic virtual escape room ever’
The Brunel Museum has produced an online escape room ‘Tunnelling through Time’ based on the site’s Thames Tunnel. Produced in partnership with Deadlocked Escape Rooms, it offers up to two hours of gameplay, 12 minutes of film and voiced characters. Players follow time-travelling tunnel contractor Joe as he meets real historical figures. The game is for one to six players and costs £15 for access. Tunnelling through Time
TheVov offers virtual exhibitions and events from multiple museums
Galleries are displaying their work on a new extended reality (XR) platform, TheVov. The site was created by the Outset Contemporary Art Fund and the art-science collective, Visualogical, and will initially run for ten weeks featuring 15 galleries. These include Whitworth, Tate, Spike Island, South London Gallery and Turner Contemporary. It will feature both exhibitions that have now closed, some going back several years, and a live programme of events, including tours, panel discussions and interactive workshops. Users are invited to make a donation, which will be shared among the galleries at the end of the run. TheVov, Museums Journal
Also: The National Gallery has published its first immersive virtual experience for mobile phones. Museums Journal
Faster broadband for hard-to-reach areas with £3.5k vouchers
The UK Gigabit Voucher Scheme is offering grants up to £3.5k to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) including not-for-profits and charities in hard to reach rural areas. Successful applicants will be able to get gigabit-capable broadband ahead of the national rollout which may take some years. DCMS, DCMS (eligibility checker), DCMS (postcode checker)
Creating ‘digital twins’ of museum objects for the gaming universe
Artnet gives an overview of some of the digital work of museums and cultural organisations that has been most successful in generating revenue during the pandemic. It cites the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, which was surprised to earn $600k from its art and art history classes online – more than double what it previously made from its in-person offer. The article also points to further steps museums could take into the gaming universe. Erinrose Sullivan, Head of Museums and Cultural Heritage at tech company SO REAL, says that in the game Avankin Life “I own two Paul Klee pieces…something simply not possible in the real world”. He suggests that there are untapped opportunities for museums to licence ‘digital twins’ of objects for the gaming and film industries. Artnet
Rhodes Must Fall and perspectives on statuary and philanthropy
A podcast for Tortoise assembled a panel taking a long view of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and how this has affected the wider debate on statuary, philanthropy and versions of history. Rhodes Must Fall activist Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh argues that “the ways we understand history through heroic and colonial statuary actually obfuscates history. I would challenge anyone to name me one of Rhodes’s victims. The reasons you can name one of Rhodes’s victims is precisely because they were erased from history.” Author and former British Museum trustee Bonnie Greer supports removal in some cases, but points to its risks: “if we take these things away, there’s a time people are going to tell you they didn’t exist. Teach this stuff. Take him down, but then teach people everything he did”. Historian Zareer Masani said that statue removal should only happen where there is overwhelming public support for it, absent in the case of Rhodes, citing Hitler and Stalin as examples of legitimate removals. The panel also discussed the risk that “if you start taking [nostalgic myths] away from people, don’t be surprised if they become not more progressive, but more reactionary, angry and less certain of who they are in the world.” Historian and journalist Max Hastings argues that Britain is ’not alone’ in being unable to look clearly at its history, citing France as well as Russia and China, but believes that the nostalgic element is uniquely British. He points out that Rhodes required a statue of himself at Oriel College as a way of controlling public memory and says he ‘does not have a problem’ with its removal, though he argues that wider removal of ‘anyone who has done anything terrible in their lives’ risks ‘tearing down a national identity’. He also points to how these issues bleed into the present, arguing that ‘crooks’ still seek to redeem themselves late in life through philanthropy.Tortoise Media
Ed Vaizey and Corinne Fowler argue that education is the missing factor in debates around Empire
‘Colonial Countryside’ project leader Corinne Fowler and former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey cover similar ground in the latest Culture Bar podcast, with a focus around the National Trust, but looking at the wider drivers for the modern politicisation of histories of slavery and empire. They discuss how the most visceral debates centre around some of the most under-taught areas of history. Recent figures show that only one in ten GCSE students are studying a module related to empire, whereas 80% learn about the Tudors. Ed Vaizey says “Empire is absolutely part of our living culture today, in terms of the language we use and the story we tell about our country, and yet it is barely studied at school, and there are lots of aspects of Empire that do need to be studied and debated. It should be about what the great leitmotif of English education is, which is critical thinking, and the ability to examine facts…and weigh them against each other.” Corinne Fowler said that every generation ‘rewrites history’ in the light of new facts, and that knowledge about an African, Indian and Chinese presence in the British countryside has only opened up in the past 20 years, with the availability of new databases. Vaizey also discussed the importance he attached to the arm’s length principle as Culture Minister, and warned against its unravelling, including for self-interested reasons: “some other government might come in that you profoundly disagree with, and you find you’ve laid the foundations for them to start directing cultural institutions”. The Culture Bar podcast launched in December 2020 with fortnightly episodes and says it aims to cover the ‘burning topics’ of the art world including climate change, Covid 19, changes in technology and changes in society. Culture Bar (Fowler and Vaizey). Culture Bar (episode feed)
Shortlist of four artists chosen for Windrush Monument
A shortlist of four artists has been chosen for the Windrush Monument, which will be erected at Waterloo Station. The winning design will be revealed in October, and the monument should be in place for Windrush Day on 21st June 2022. Gov.uk
Also: Black Cultural Archives has resigned from the Home Office’s Windrush Working Group, following the publication of a Government report which argued that there is no structural racism in the UK. It also criticised the ‘selective and confused’ use of data in the report. Museums Journal
Design Museum runs pop-up supermarket for five days, with packaging by emerging designers
The Design Museum ran a pop-up supermarket for five days in late April, selling many of the staples of an ordinary shopping basket, but with packaging specially created by ten young designers. The goods themselves were not sold at inflated prices, and were available on and offline. Camille Walala, the artist and designer who created the project says “the past year has been really challenging for artists who haven’t been able to show work or collaborate as normal. ‘Supermarket’ is a great way to not only support the Design Museum, but also shine a spotlight on the ten brilliant young artists who through this project have a new platform for their work.” Director Tim Marlow adds “this installation is an opportunity to think about what we buy, who profits and what we consider to be essential.” The project was sponsored by Bombay Sapphire gin, with its signature blue used as the base colour for much of the package design – on items that range from bread to rice, toilet paper and washing up liquid. Art Newspaper, Arts Industry, Guardian, Design Museum
Developing a new wave of museum shops as a place of spectacle, uniqueness and community
Callum Lumsden of Lumsden Design, which has shaped museum retail spaces from V&A to MoMA and Tate, has spoken to Arts Industry about the new opportunities he sees for developing museum shops. Although online sales have gone up from 21.8% to 30% over the past two years, he says there is still a strong market for things that are crafted, local and not available online. Lumsden is currently developing the entrance hall of the Schlossmuseum in Linz, Austria to host artisans showcasing the techniques used to create objects in the museum’s collections. Visitors will then be able to enjoy taster sessions and buy from the makers. Meanwhile, Odunpazarı Modern Museum in Turkey serves all the food in its restaurants with crockery and cutlery made locally. In these models, commercial enterprise and museum programming merge and create a sense of local ownership and interconnected interests, attracting a wider group of people to museums. Arts Industry, Schlossmuseum, OMM
New CultureCase research findings in brief – from crowdfunding to green prescriptions
Evaluation of a creative green prescription programme held at Whitworth Park and the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester found positive benefits in self-esteem and reduced social isolation. The participants were 46 adult mental health service users aged 44 – 70. CultureCase
Research based on Kickstarter projects in the US and Canada between 2009 – 2014 found that crowdfunders based around denser population centres, and areas with higher levels of educational attainment, and higher numbers of local non-profits, are more likely to be successful. CultureCase
Audience Agency data suggests Covid-19 increases inequality in accessing arts
Recent research by the Audience Agency finds that the effect of the pandemic has been to exacerbate existing inequalities in accessing culture – with the availability of time and money being particular factors, and a division between those in manual occupations and desk jobs. However it adds “there are a wide range of ambitions for this greater inclusivity bubbling up throughout the sector and a clear appetite for change.”Audience Agency, Centre for Cultural Value (webinar: Covid-19, the Great Unequaliser?), CCV (blog)
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