International Slavery Museum among recipients of NLHF £50m Heritage Horizon Awards
The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool is among five projects sharing £50m in NLHF’s Heritage Horizon Awards, which supports innovative projects to revolutionise UK heritage. The museum’s £9.93m grant will support its transformation from a collection of galleries into a prominent museum, based at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building. It will work with those most affected by the legacies of slavery in Liverpool, across the UK and internationally. The four other winners of the Heritage Horizon awards are:
Great Yarmouth Winter Gardens – the last surviving seaside cast iron and glass building of its type, which will be restored to bring education, entertainment and new life at the heart of the town.
A national marine park in Plymouth, including restoring and reusing two listed buildings, and a zero carbon by 2030 project, including doubling the size of seagrass beds.
Peatland Progress – sustainable wet farming in the fens to lock in carbon.
Cairngorms 2030 – bringing together 45 partners in the UK’s largest national park to address the climate emergency.
Whitworth produces William Blake NFT to support socially beneficial projects
The Whitworth is producing a non-fungible token of William Blake’s 1794 image The Ancient of Days, which it holds in its collections, to fund socially beneficial projects. Launched on the online platform Vastari labs in late July as the first ‘UK museum-accredited NFT’, it will run to an edition of 50. The Whitworth will be retaining two and will receive 20% creator royalties. In a film introducing the project Director Alistair Hudson says “The Whitworth decided to embark on this project because it wanted to think about how it could redistribute the wealth of its collections in the most democratic way. This technology offers the opportunity to open up the collections to the broadest possible audience.” It is produced as part of a research project called ‘Economics, the Blockbuster’, which looks at the problems of existing economic models and proposes new ones offering wider social benefit. This project will track the activity of the NFT over two years, recording conversations around it, and include the results in an exhibition in 2023. There has recently been a spike in cultural organisations looking to profit from NFTs – the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is exploring selling NFTs for digital versions of art in its collection, artist Damien Hirst is launching his own digital currency, and Dallas Symphony Orchestra is launching NFTs priced between $100 for a concert recording plus memorabilia to over $50,000 for a luxury event next year. Art Newspaper, Whitworth, MuseumNext, FT (Hirst, paywall), Art+Seek
Images this month: Museums Sheffield summer exhibitions
Images this month are from Museums Sheffield's summer programme: 'John Hoyland: The Last Paintings' and 'Earthbound: Contemporary Landscape from the Roberts Institute of Art', both at the Millennium Gallery,and 'The Sheffield Project: Photographs of a Changing City' at Weston Park, capturing images of the city during a transformative moment in the 1980s. Museums Sheffield (Hoyland), Museums Sheffield (Earthbound), Museums Sheffield (Changing City)
Covid-19 – current rules in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Wales is currently in alert level one with plans to move to alert level zero on 7th August, when most but not all restrictions will be removed, with an ongoing obligation for organisations and businesses to carry out Covid risk assessments. Welsh Government (next steps), Welsh Government (current restrictions FAQ) Welsh Government (guidance for tourism)
The Scottish Government has issued revised advice for museums, galleries and heritage attractions as of 19th July. It has announced that it will move beyond level 0 on 9th August, with some protective measures still in place including face coverings indoors and collection of contact details for Test and Protect. Scottish Government (guidance for museums), Scottish Government
Current restrictions in Northern Ireland include one metre social distancing at visitor attractions and mandatory face coverings. NI Direct
Guidance from museum bodies as Covid restrictions become optional in England
Since 19th July, virtually all pandemic restrictions have ceased to be mandatory in England, including the requirement for social distancing and mask wearing. However, research undertaken for ALVA in late June showed that 75% of the public are not ready for measures to be removed, and polling from YouGov saw a decline in confidence in being in public spaces in the run up to 19th July – for example, confidence in being in high street shops fell from 81% to 70%. Most museums and galleries have retained a majority of their pandemic restrictions – including asking for mask-wearing by those not exempt – while loosening others. Many museums are continuing to recommend pre-booking, while making some walk-up tickets available. A National Gallery spokesperson said “though we will not be enforcing social distancing, our priority is a safe experience for all. We will manage capacity carefully so visitors can maintain their preferred distance from others”. ALVA has published new draft guidance, stressing that it is advisory, and should be adapted to the specific situation at each venue. It suggests:
maintaining reduced capacity to avoid crowds.
asking visitors to book, especially at weekends, while offering capacity for some walk ups.
retaining social distancing, possibly reduced from two metres to one metre.
retaining face mask wearing indoors unless exempt.
NMDC has also revised its Good Practice Guidelines for Reopening Museums in the light of changes in England. AIM, ALVA (draft guidance), Art Newspaper, NMDC (updated guidelines), YouGov, AIM (AIM members keep safety measures in place) Museums Journal
Arts Council highlights legal and moral obligation to protect disabled and clinically vulnerable staff and audiences
Meanwhile Arts Council England (ACE) points to the situation of disabled and clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people and says “their representatives tell us they are feeling frightened about revisiting creative and cultural spaces or returning to work in the sector as restrictions are removed.” It strongly encourages organisations to talk to disabled and CEV staff and audiences about their needs, and also reminds them of their legal obligations under the Equality Act. Andrew Miller, Chair of ACE’s Disability Advisory Group said “the recent UK Disability Arts Alliance survey revealed the full fragility of the disabled creative workforce, and audience research tells us disabled people’s confidence returning to live events is at an all-time low. So, I warmly welcome ACE’s considered approach to the lifting of restrictions which requires the arts sector to demonstrate inclusive values and to combat ableism.”ACE, M + H
Museums Partnership Reports track collection sharing by 22 national museums
DCMS has published two reports describing the extent of collection sharing by 22 national museums from 2018 to 2020, running into the pandemic period only in the final month of reporting. Figures show that:
In 2018-19 national museums lent 68,049 objects to 2,049 venues for display, which were seen by at least 32.8 million people. 61,533 were displayed in the UK. A further 316,064 objects were lent to 6,314 institutions for research purposes.
In 2019-20 national museums made 2,290 loans of 71,205 objects, which were seen by at least 35.7 million people. 59,870 were displayed in the UK. An additional 499,973 objects went on loan to institutions for research purposes. This shows a 4.4% increase in object lending and 8% increase in audience compared to the previous year.
The resourcing for these loans comes largely from national museums themselves, backed up by funding from ACE, NLHF and the Art Fund’s Weston Loan Programme, and underpinned by the Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief. During 2020, loans include social history items that were shared by National Museums Liverpool with the Atkinson, as part of Sefton’s year as Borough of Culture in the city region. Since autumn 2019, the British Library’s Treasures on Tour programme has lent ten spotlight loan objects, including a manuscript of George Eliot’s Middlemarch to Coventry and Nuneaton on the 200th anniversary of her birth. Gov.uk (2019-20), Gov.uk (2018-19)
‘Boundless Creativity’ report looks at pandemic digital innovation - and supporting future cultural R&D
A new report, Boundless Creativity, looks at digital innovations across the cultural sector during lockdown and how to apply the lessons to help the sector in future. It also explores the impact of the pandemic on cultural organisations during open periods and the link between arts and wellbeing. Led by DCMS and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the report draws on four roundtables running to February 2021, with organisations from across the culture sector, including museums, contributing insights. Findings include:
Digital audiences during lockdown were different from in-person visitors. Twice as many under 45s as over 45s engaged in cultural activity online. Black and Asian audiences engaged more, while traditional audiences engaged less.
The most successful online models brought in significant income – but still a fraction of pre-lockdown funds. The Hay Festival streamed for free, inviting audiences to chip in, and generated $250k – however, only one in 500 donated. Two Old Vic performances reached viewers across every age group from 60 countries, taking about a third of what they would expect from a commercially viable in-person event.
Open venues have not so far equated with recovered income: in many museums and galleries footfall has been 10-25% of pre-pandemic levels.
There have been some R&D funds for culture and technology, notably the Audiences of the Future Demonstrator project, which is developing the multi-sensory adventure game Dinosaurs and Robots for the Natural History Museum and Science Museum Group. However, in general, creative industries have been excluded from R&D funding streams, and it is a major recommendation of the report to extend the options.
There is also a poor understanding of international digital audiences, and further research is needed to develop their participation. The report encourages more data sharing to build a better picture, while acknowledging the barriers due to much data being commercial in confidence.
The report also acknowledges that many smaller players find it currently difficult to get noticed in a market dominated by huge commercial streaming platforms – although a few large cultural organisations like the National Theatre have developed their own. The report floats the idea of larger organisations offering platform sharing.
It calls for a stronger digital skills base across the sector, with DCMS, AHRC and bodies including ACE to look at skills gaps.
The report also calls for a new project looking at the impact of Covid-19 on new entrants to the field, to reverse ‘labour market scarring’ and bring back lost talent.
Government confirms 50% cut to subsidy for students taking arts courses, with exemption for archaeology
The Office for Students (OfS) has confirmed that the subsidy for students taking a range of art and design subjects will be reduced by 50%, from £243 to £121.50, from the 21–22 academic year onwards. Only archaeology has been exempt from the plans, after being reclassified with science subjects. The arts funds will be redirected to STEM subjects, despite 95% of respondents to a Government consultation opposing the change. Additionally, London universities will have their London weighting cut. An OfS spokesman argued that this is only 1% of degree course fees when counting the tuition fee of £9,250 and top-up grant.
However, a spokesman for the University of the Arts London said "this undermines the government’s commitment to the creative industries. Vulnerable institutions are therefore likely to be forced to reduce investment in high-cost technology and technical support. This will affect student preparedness for the workplace”. The Cultural Learning Alliance reiterated its point that the cuts would lead to a more unequal sector – with a few institutions receiving a share of an additional £10m, including the Courtauld and Royal College of Art, but a majority who teach the arts, including post-1992 universities, seeing a reduction. CLA said “we have huge concerns about the impact of these cuts on existing inequalities, the cultural and creative sector talent pipeline, on the ability of our creative industries to remain world-leading in future years”Art Newspaper, Cultural Learning Alliance, Guardian, FT (paywall), CIfA
New CIF report outlines proposals to enable creative industries to lead the economic recovery
The Creative Industries Federation and Creative England have jointly published a major new report, ‘The UK Creative Industries: unleashing the power and potential of creativity’ backed by data from a research report commissioned from Oxford Economics. Findings include:
Prior to the pandemic, the creative industries sector was growing four times faster than the UK economy as a whole. Oxford Economics research reveals that when supply chains are taken into account, 3.5m jobs, or one in ten, are dependent on the creative industries.
The sector was hit hard by the pandemic, losing £12bn in 2020 alone and projected to lose one in 20 jobs (112,700) by the end of 2021.
Museums, galleries and libraries were among the worst-affected sub-sectors, losing 32% of GVA (£310m) and 14% of jobs (13,000 posts). By 2025, the sector's GVA is still projected to be £64m less than pre-pandemic levels, with 5,500 fewer jobs. Music, performing and visual arts were the worst affected sectors (39% GVA) and IT, software, computer services and video games the least affected (1% GVA).
Despite this, Oxford Economics projects that with the right investment the creative industries could recover faster than the UK economy as a whole, growing by 26% by 2025 and contributing £132.1bn in GVA, an increase of £28bn on 2020 – greater than the financial services, insurance and pension industries combined.
The sector is a significant innovator: over half of firms produced new or significantly improved products and services in the past three years, and a quarter introduced innovations completely new to the market. However, creative entrepreneurs are three times more likely to use their own money or that of friends or family to get an idea off the ground than small to medium sized businesses overall.
The reports recommends:
Offering financial support to those generating employment and innovation, including through challenge prizes, an Innovation Enterprise Allowance for those out of work but wishing to develop new ideas, and an Innovation Employment Scheme, taking the Kickstart scheme as a model to encourage firms to take on creatives.
Establishing a Creative Industries Investment Bank to unlock finance.
Place-based support, building on the development of creative clusters in areas such as Edinburgh and Bristol, and using the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to drive creativity-based recovery across the UK.
Creative skills are in high demand across the economy, but the capacity to afford new training is uneven – risking locking some talented people out of the market. Creative education and training should therefore be made accessible at all levels and points of life, and embedded into economic strategies.
Upscaling the successful Creative Careers Programme, targeting young people and places most impacted by the pandemic.
We Are Creative (give email to download report), CIF (Oxford Economic report, members only download)
Planning for an unpredictable future: the view from Birmingham Museums Trust
Blogging for ACE, co-CEO of BMT Zak Mensah discusses how to approach the fact that museums are now likely to shift their inherent design, after 40 years with little change. 92% of staff at BMT want to retain some form of home or flexible working post-pandemic. Simultaneously, 96% of households have access to digital technology, and some are finding new ways to connect to museums. The visitor footfall metric on site, a useful proxy for how many people will spend in museum shops and cafes, also looks like a less certain all-purpose measure of a museum’s success in future. Zak argues that a central plank of leading through change and uncertainty is that “if I can meet the needs of real people, I can build a business model around it”. He suggests that some of the trends accelerated by Covid-19 include reconsidering business models, rethinking what ‘work’ looks like if being in the office is not the only way, whether museums need to become media companies, the existence of digital currency, and the evolution of smart buildings and smart cities. He adds “now is the time to get prepared, be brave and try the things we’ve long been unsure of. We can either do the work and try and learn, or wait for outside factors to force us to change.”ACE, Centre for Cities (some definitions of smart cities)
City of London plans projects to revive its district through culture, including art in shops and offices
The City of London has published plans to use culture to reinject life into its neighbourhoods post-pandemic, and to help develop a new generation of creatives. Plans include filling shops, offices and foyers with art, a five-day creative skills workshop for young people over the summer, highlighting creative industries career paths, and plans to redesign commercial space into creative workspace hubs. M + H, Arts Industry
Government consults on expanding the Ivory Act to include walrus and other animals
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting the public on extending the Ivory Act to include not just elephants, but also other ivory bearing species. Its three options are either an extension to hippopotamuses only, to five species also including the narwhal, walrus, killer whale and sperm whale, or leaving the Act as it is. The consultation runs to 11th September. Guardian, Defra
BEIS survey on ventilation seeks input from museums – including likely costs of improvement
Ventilation to increase the supply of fresh air in indoor spaces helps to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Now the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has launched a survey on the topic and would like more information from the museum sector, including around likely costs of increasing ventilation. There are 15 questions and the survey is anonymous. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on 6th August. BEIS
Four designs by Basil Watson, Jeannette Ehlers, Thomas J Price and Valda Jackson have been shortlisted for the National Windrush Monument and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is now consulting the public for their views and preferences. The deadline for responses is 25th August. Gov.uk, Gov.uk (press release, with artists’ videos about designs.)
Amina Shah is the new Chief Executive and National Librarian at The National Library of Scotland, having previously served as Trustee. She joins the Library from the University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums. NLS
Ros Kerslake has announced that she will leave her role as Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund at the end of 2021. NLHF
Culture24 is running a three session course for museum leaders with responsibilities across strategy and operations, to help them optimise their use of digital. As well as increasing understanding of the opportunities around digital the course will offer case studies, a network and practical next steps for each participating organisation. The event takes place over three sessions on 20th and 27th September and 7th October and is free. Culture24
Season for Change: register your events in the run up to COP26
The cross-artform environmental group Season for Change is running a festival of events in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow this November. In addition to ten art commissions, it is also inviting cultural groups, including museums and galleries, to register their climate and environment related events on its website. Participants are also invited to tag @JoinTheSeason_ #SeasonForChange across all social media channels. Early adopters include London Transport Museum, which features with its Climate Crossroads events, which will run for 18 months and look at what the future could be like for London. Season for Change, London Transport Museum
Digital skills day: watch the films – from social media strategy to online monetisation
The Arts Marketing Association has made all the films from its June Digital Skills Day available online. Sessions include developing a digital engagement strategy, banishing the backlog with digital volunteers, planning a social media campaign and how online events generated donations and engagement for a small heritage organisation. Culture Hive
Netflix series addresses the Isabella Stewart Gardner art theft in 1990
In 1990, thieves spent 81 minutes stealing major artworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, including Rembrandt’s only landscape painting, ‘Storm on the Sea of Galilee’. Nothing has ever been recovered. Now a four part Netflix series ‘This is a Robbery’ covers the events, which producer Jeff Siegel also discusses on The Art Newspaper podcast. He says he hopes the global release will ‘shine the biggest spotlight’ on the losses. Art Newspaper
Museums for Future: reading in coffee shops and other utopias
The latest episode of the Green Museum podcast discusses the Museums for Future Network, launched at the NEMO conference in 2019. The network aims for a world where every museum is climate-conscious, drawing on their cultural capital and storytelling expertise to engage audiences. Organiser Florian Schlederer also describes how environmental activism can offer an attractive vision of the future: “also, I before had not known how comfortable and really how amazing climate friendly society will be, it’s more focused on things we can start doing – community, cheap mobility, education, living in lush green cities with places to meet people.” At the same time, the group is aimed at museum staff who ‘feel a bit desperate about what we are seeing in the world’ and want urgent action. Interventions include inviting Fridays for the Future strikers into museums, planet friendly museum café menus, and an ‘Objects on Strike’ programme once a week. NEMO, Spotify, Museums for Future
Tate to hire 50 apprentices aged 16 to 24 over the next three years
Tate is launching a new scheme across all of its sites to offer apprenticeships to 16 to 24 year olds in fields including curating, conservation, fundraising and marketing. Tate Director Maria Balshaw says that the scheme will “draw on a much wider pool of young talent to come into the organisation”. Roles will last for at least a year, with a mentor and skills coach for each participant, so they are equipped for further progression. 50 young people, including graduates who have been unable to find work during the pandemic, will be recruited, with most of the scheme’s initial £500k cost already raised from private donors. Times, Tate
Curating for Change: Disabled People Leading in Museums
Accentuate UK, which aims to develop the employment and representation of disabled people in the cultural sector has published a new report ‘Curating for Change: Disabled People Leading in Museums’. It brings together research collected over the past year, including through interviewing disabled people with experience of working in museums, or attempting to find work in the sector. Currently only around 3% of the museum workforce is disabled, compared to 20% of the wider workforce. Findings include that:
Almost all those interviewed said that Covid-19 offered positive opportunities – ranging from flexible remote working, interview practices and digital engagement for audiences. Often methods of working previously denied to disabled people by museums became common practice as pandemic measures kicked in.
The main reasons cited for disabled people not getting work or progressing in the museum sector include inaccessible recruitment practices, lack of flexibility in working patterns and unnecessary requirements (e.g. driving licence, ability to lift objects), that could be met through other provision such as Access to Work.
The Curating for Change project is working with a network of partner museums, which, subject to funding, is hoping to run a programme of 18-month Fellowships alongside briefer workplace training opportunities for disabled people who would like to make a career in the sector. Accentuate UK
Royal Pavilion & Museums receives £390k for comprehensive plan to increase equality
Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust is launching a three year plan, Culture Change RPMT, to increase equality and diversity across it work. Funded by £390k from the James Henry Green Trust, it aims to move the museum’s collaborative work with communities and partners from a project-by-project approach to something embedded across the whole institution. Director Hedley Swain said “our organisation stood in solidarity with the BLM campaigns following the death of George Floyd and we issued a statement which promised to make changes to RPMT and to how we tell the histories of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities… Culture Change RPMT will, for the first time, draw together all our staff, our buildings and collections, our resources, our communities and strategic partners to promote holistic organisational change.” Specific actions include hiring a Diversity Manager and Additional Collections Curator, organisation-wide training, a review of interpretation, and research to connect with community groups and schools. The museum’s World Art Collection, which has designated status and contains more than 13,000 objects from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas will also be at the heart of the work. Royal Pavilion & Museums, Museums Journal
DCMS statistical release on employment across its sectors
DCMS has published statistics on the number of people aged 16 to 64 working in its sectors in 2019 and 2020. It found that 9.3% had a job in a DCMS sector excluding tourism in 2020, up from 8.9% in 2019. This rises to 14.9% for London in 2020. Sector segments overlap so some of the 1.5% recorded as working in the cultural sector will also be counted in the 5% working in creative industries. Museums, galleries and libraries accounted for 0.2% in 2019 and 2020. Gov.uk (latest employment stats), Gov.uk (all DCMS economic estimates)
Flexible apprenticeships for the cultural sector allow placements across multiple employers
The Government has announced a new £7m fund will open in 2022 to support more flexible apprenticeships in sectors where short-term project work is common, including the creative sector, agriculture and construction. Apprenticeships are at least 12 months long, so a small number of agencies will be set up to allow recruits to get experience with two or more employers across the period of their training. Gov.uk,
Rediscover Summer campaign encourages children’s activities, including museum visits
DCMS and the Department for Education have launched a ‘Rediscover Summer’ campaign to encourage families and children to participate in enriching activities, from reading and cycling to museum visiting. Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said “our young people deserve a summer filled with exciting and enriching activities after everything they’ve missed out on as we’ve fought to control the virus.” Themed weeks are running until early September, with week five (23–29 August) focused on heritage. Gov.uk, Gov.uk (Rediscover Summer guide), ACE (toolkit for attractions)
Art Pass Unbooked encourages public to visit smaller museums
Art Fund has created a new service, Art Pass Unbooked, to allow the public to locate and book smaller museums close to where they live, offering a range of choices beyond large institutions. The new offer has been developed from Art Tickets, Art Fund’s free ticket management system for museums which don’t have ticketing systems in place, which has recently picked up new users as sites have needed this resource during the pandemic. Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman said “our new research shows that many visitors expect to encounter crowds and queues. To open up the possibilities and support local museums and galleries across the UK, we have launched Art Pass Unbooked allowing users to search among hundreds of museums and galleries, find availability, and book a spontaneous day out.”ArtFund (Art Pass Unbooked), Arts Industry
Advocating for ecomuseums – and avoiding a consumerist attitude to scenery
Wales faces a very busy summer with tourists flocking to its outdoor attractions, but with risks involved in managing high footfall so that some areas don’t become overwhelmed, and stories emerging of unbookable restaurants and crowded beauty spots. The Welsh Government said that it was offering additional support to local authorities to support managing additional visitor numbers. Similarly, in Scotland Ben Nevis is among the places damaged by littering and footpath wear – with the result that some guides are now advocating for an ‘ecomuseum’ approach – focusing on depth and understanding landscapes, not moving through them at speed. There are 600 ecomuseums worldwide, mainly in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, but also three in Scotland and one at Pen Llŷn in Wales. BBC, Inkcap Journal, Pen Llŷn
Local council makes buses free in August to encourage local tourism
Swansea Council is funding an initiative to make bus travel in the city free for four days per week throughout August, aimed at supporting travel and retail – and in particular to encourage locals who can’t go abroad this summer to enjoy their immediate area. Leader of Swansea Council Rob Stewart said “we want to do everything we can to support residents and businesses to recover and succeed post-pandemic. Swansea has so much to offer, but many people haven’t been able to travel around Swansea and enjoy our amazing towns, villages and beaches. We want to help people travel local, enjoy local, shop local.”Wales Online
‘The museum that never opens’ transformed by community into The Whitaker
A venue known locally as ‘the museum that never opens’ has been revived with a £2.2m refurbishment, as a result of enthusiasm from the local community. The Rossendale Museum in Lancashire opened in 1901, and was run by Lancashire County Council which looked for alternatives in 2010 when austerity began to bite. Local enthusiasts formed the not-for-profit Whitaker Interest Company, renamed the museum after local hero Richard Whitaker and obtained a NLHF grant. Capital works have now doubled the museum’s size and added a cinema screen, large café and 80 seat events space which will generate the museum’s future income. The main gallery centres on a Cabinet of Curiosities of ‘every conceivable weird thing’ from the collection, including taxidermy, dolls, household items, portraits and toys. There will also be art exhibitions, and a showcase to be given to different sections of the Rossendale community for six monthly uncurated presentations. Arts Industry, Taitmail, The Whitaker
Northampton Museum reopens, seven years after controversial Sekhemka sale
Northampton Museum & Art Gallery has reopened after a £6.7m development, funded by the sale of an Egyptian statue of Sekhemka, which also led to the museum losing its accreditation in 2014. West Northamptonshire Council leader Johnathan Nunn said that residents seeing the new museum would consider it ‘money well spent’, but that he was not sure if the Council would make the same choices again, and that if it did, it would be in a ‘more consultative’ way. The museum, which features a Shoe Gallery reflecting local heritage in the industry, has been granted provisional accreditation and will seek full accreditation now it has reopened. Museums Journal, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, Northampton Chronicle, BBC
New and redeveloped museums in brief: Livingstone Birthplace, Holocaust Memorial
The David Livingstone Birthplace museum is reopening after a £9.1m redevelopment. The museum is a regeneration of the Blantyre Works Mill in South Lanarkshire, set in 11 acres of parkland. Livingstone was a Christian missionary, African explorer and anti-slavery campaigner: the museum will display 50 artefacts of African origin, and look at the 21st century legacy of his life, seen from multiple perspectives. Blooloop, Museums Journal, Apollo
Birmingham City Council is considering creating a Museum of Athletics in Perry Bar Park as part of its masterplan to regenerate the Perry Bar area by 2040. The city is currently involved in a £700m redevelopment before it hosts the Commonwealth Games next year. Birmingham Live
Berlin’s major museum project, the Humboldt Forum has finally opened to in-person visits by the public, having begun a virtual programme earlier this year. Art Newspaper
Plans have been approved to build a Holocaust Memorial and education centre in the grounds of Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Palace of Westminster. The structure will consist of 23 large bronze fins, plus an education centre underground, which will showcase the testimonies of 112 Holocaust survivors. Plans had previously been disputed by those citing damage to the park and flooding risk, who may appeal the decision. Jewish Chronicle, Museums Journal, Guardian
Liverpool loses its World Heritage Status following a dispute about its waterside developments
Liverpool has become only the third site in 50 years to lose its UNESCO World Heritage status. UNESCO voted in July to remove the badge for exceptional heritage, citing previous and future planned developments on the city’s waterfront, including a new £500m stadium for Everton. City Mayor Joanne Anderson said she was ‘hugely disappointed and concerned’ and would appeal the decision, pointing to ‘hundreds of millions’ invested across listed buildings and the public realm. The BBC reports the general reaction across developers and cultural groups in the city as disappointment mixed with asserting that the city needs to continue to evolve. Among them is Bernard Rose, who has photographed the city since the 70s. He said "some of the glass-sheeted structures have no soul, but I do not think that it is a reason for the status to be removed. We cannot stand still. We have got to move forward.” By contrast, Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright said that the city’s council had “trampled its historic buildings with glee, pursuing needless demolition and rubber-stamping numerous atrocious developments, wreaking civic vandalism on an epic scale” and therefore deserved to lose its status. However, National Museums Liverpool Director Laura Pye said that it is ‘simply untrue’ that the city’s heritage is in a worse state than when UNESCO last inspected it a decade ago. Guardian, Art Newspaper, BBC, Museums Journal
World Heritage sites: new designation in Wales and other UNESCO decisions this month
Following UNESCO’s meeting last month, other decisions and statements include:
The Slate Landscape of North West Wales has received UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, making it the fourth in Wales and one of 33 in the UK. The area has an 1,800 year history of slate mining and is cited by UNESCO as ‘roofing the 19th century world’. Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden said “gaining World Heritage Site Status is an excellent celebration of the pride in our slate communities - and a driver for future regeneration.”gov.uk, Welsh Government, Museums Journal
Stonehenge may be placed on UNESCO’s Heritage in Danger list – the site has been given until February 2022 to amend plans for a road tunnel. Historic England supports the tunnel project, arguing that it will improve visitor experience. However, the tunnel has recently been ruled unlawful in the High Court and the Department for Transport says it is ‘carefully considering the judgment and deciding how to proceed’. Museums Journal, Guardian, Museums Journal, Guardian
UNESCO has also voted for the third time not to add Venice and its lagoon to its sites at risk list, although the meeting highlighted long-running problems including poorly managed tourism, diminishing population of locals in the city, damage to the lagoon system from climate change and human action, and the failure of a defined buffer zone around Venice. The city must deliver a report on its conservation status by 1st December 2022. Anna Somers Cocks, formerly Chair of the Venice in Peril fund says that the city will disappear ‘within our grandchildren’s lifetime’ without radical action. Art Newspaper, Art Newspaper
39 new places became UNESCO World Heritage sites this year, of which 29 were cultural and five natural. ‘The Great Spa Towns of Europe’ were added to the list counted as one site, with Bath included as one of 11 places in seven countries where culture has grown up around a natural mineral spring. UNESCO
Glasgow Life, which runs cultural and leisure venues across the city, including its museums, has announced that it will cut 500 jobs. The charity lost most of its £37.4m of earned income to the pandemic, and is also a facing a cut of 6% (£4.7m) to the money it receives from Glasgow Council to run museums for 2021-22. However, it aims for no involuntary redundancies, and will offer affected staff work at the same grade elsewhere in the council. To date, 91 of Glasgow Life’s 171 facilities have reopened, and a spokesperson said that the job losses will not be ‘delivered through venues without reopening dates’. Museums Journal
The Air and Space Hall which is run by the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester is to close at its site in the Lower Campfield market hall building. The exhibits, including aeroplanes, will mostly be returned to the RAF Museum in Manchester. The market hall building is currently closed because it needs substantial repairs. Director Sally Macdonald said “the repair and investment work required to bring this beautiful building back to life is substantial, the space presents real challenges in the sustainable display of historic objects and ultimately, it is the responsible thing to now pass the building back to Manchester City Council, ready for its next chapter.” Science and Industry Museum, Museums Journal
Protests at plans to sell of Apsley House, home of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery
Swindon Borough Council plans to sell the 1840s Grade II listed building, Apsley House, which currently houses Swindon Museum & Art Gallery. It intends to put its collections in storage until a new building is identified in a cultural quarter development planned to be delivered by 2030. The Council argues that the site barely attracted 30 visitors a day pre-Covid. However, a new Friends group is campaigning against the decision and seeking to save the building as a site for the museum. Museums Journal, Museums Journal
Also: An independent, unaccredited museum in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, ‘War Years Remembered’ closed on 10th July, being ineligible for Government support, and having lost nearly all its income through the pandemic. It continues to hope that it might be saved through fundraising, although it is still planning to leave its current site. Museums Journal, War Years Remembered
Bologna Museum installs AI to track how people look at art in its galleries
Istituzione Bologna Musei is installing an AI driven system on its premises to judge how much its visitors appreciate its artworks by tracking facial expression, length of stay, angle of approaching an artwork and other factors. It is underpinned by ENEA ShareArt technology. Although expression tracking is new, tracking to chart dwell time has taken place across UK museums for some years. The Times comments “very few works keep museum or gallery visitors glued to the spot for more than 15 seconds, with the average observation time just four to five seconds…if most gallery visitors don’t stop at an exhibit, does that make it less valuable?”Blooloop, Times
Resurrecting the dodo at a French natural history museum
The French Natural Museum of Natural History has brought 11 extinct animals to life in its Grand Gallery of Evolution using AR. A dodo, thylacine, sea cows, elephant birds and others can be seen through smart glasses as visitors wander through the hall, giving a more naturalistic experience than using VR and mixing entertainment with learning about extinction. Jing Culture
New research suggests isolation better than Zoom for some over 60s during lockdown
Lancaster University has published a new report on use of digital communication between households during lockdown, which found that many over 60s found isolation easier to bear than using Zoom-style online options for contact. Co-author Dr Hang Yu said “we were expecting that a virtual contact was better than total isolation but that doesn’t seem to have been the case for older people”. Based on data from 5,148 people aged 60 or over in the UK and US, it found that some found grasping new technology stressful, but that even among those who used it extensively, it remained more damaging to mental health than isolation. It suggests that alternative ways are needed to communicate with this group in any future emergency – including safe face-to-face interaction, as well as looking at ways to increase the confidence of older people in dealing with digital. Guardian
Towards a National Collection: digital public engagement strategies and other films
Towards a National Collection, the AHRC-funded project which breaks down barriers between cultural heritage collections, has published films of its most recent events, with topics including digital public engagement strategies, visual search for heritage collections and copyright and open access. Towards a National Collection
Virtual Reading Rooms, Virtual Teaching Spaces: an emerging trend in archives and museums
Research Libraries UK has produced a new report looking at how Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs) are developing in archives, special collections and museums. Both allow human-mediated remote digital access to reading rooms which does not rely on digitisation of collections, but instead uses visualisers live streamed from reading rooms. A ‘relatively low technological threshold’ for participation has made it possible for many institutions to experiment. Originally used as a replacement for live events during lockdown, especially for research groups, they now have the potential to be developed further for the long term. 32 institutions which have engaged with this technology have contributed to the report, including many university libraries, Rijksmuseum and Imperial War Museums. RLUK will continue to explore this subject and invites interested institutions to get in touch. RLUK
Updated Collections at Risk statement from ACE and 16 sector bodies
ACE and 16 museum funders and sector bodies, including NMDC, have published an updated joint statement on heritage, museums and collections at risk. Significant numbers of museums are facing challenges to their sustainability, with some public access at risk. The statement agrees to a co-ordinated approach between the bodies to support colleagues with concerns about the future of museums and collections. Factors may include cuts in funding, loss of a building, threat of loss of collections e.g. through sale, reduced workforce or loss of Accredited status. ACE’s Director of Museums, Kate Bellamy said “we hope that museums in crisis will get in touch so that we can work together to provide appropriate advice.”ACE
Export bars: Mughal dagger and Nativity by Peruzzi
Two export bars have recently been announced:
A Mughal dagger and scabbard, probably acquired by Clive of India in 1757, but with a silk brocade cover dating back to 1650. It has been valued at £1.12m and has an export bar until 8th October, with a possible extension to 8th February 2022. Gov.uk
The Nativity by Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi, painted in the 1510s, one of a few surviving paintings by the artist and worth over £460k. There is an export bar until 22nd October, with a possible extension to April 2022. Gov.uk
Export of Objects of Cultural Interest report highlights 12 objects saved for the nation
The latest report on the Export of Objects of Cultural Interest has been published covering the period 1st May 2018 to 30th April 2020. Over the period, 34 cases received an export bar, of which 12 were bought by individuals or institutions in the UK. Items saved for the nation include an Indian miniature painting, ‘Trumpeters’, by Nainsukh of Guler (c.1710–78) acquired by The British Museum, JMW Turner’s ‘Walton Bridges’ acquired by Norfolk Museums Service and the notebooks of Sir Charles Lyell acquired by the University of Edinburgh. Gov.uk, Museums Journal
Bridport Museums draws up a disposals policy (with help from its visitors)
Emily Hicks, Director of Bridport Museums Trust describes how she dealt with ‘documentation issues about 60 years in the making’ and the need to address disposals, by involving the whole community in deciding what to keep in the museum’s social history collection. The museum weighed up the risks of adverse publicity and the possible perception that it was disposing of the town’s treasures, but eventually decided to go ahead. It created both a communications campaign on the constraints and challenges of collecting and an exhibition, ‘The Right Stuff’ which invited responses from visitors. The process is still ongoing, with ultimate decisions to be made by the museum but based on an assessment tool shaped by the community. Hicks adds “we will also be creating a revised version of our collections development policy, one that the community have helped us create and that will help us decide what objects we want to collect and what stories we should be telling in the future.”Collections Trust
RLUK publishes report on the role of research libraries, including museums as leaders in scholarly research
Research Libraries UK has published a major report on the role of research libraries as active participants and leaders in academic research. Its definition of research libraries is broad, and includes archives, special collections, museums and galleries. It found that:
Library staff have considerable technical, curatorial and teaching skills which cross disciplinary boundaries, but are not always recognised as research partners.
Many library staff working for a higher education institution or independent research organisation (which includes some museums) are eligible to apply for UKRI research funds as a co- or principal investigator, without the need for a PhD, but awareness of this varies across institutions.
However perceptions are changing, and the report recommends that AHRC highlights eligibility criteria more clearly, and offer research development grants to library and collections staff.
Additional £1m in grants available through Archives Revealed
The Archives Revealed programme, which funds cataloguing and unlocking archives, will distribute a further £1m over the next three years. Run by The National Archives, in partnership with the Pilgrim Trust and Wolfson Foundation, the fund will offer up to £45k per project, as well as smaller scoping grants. Recipients to date range from the Lapworth Museum of Geology to Glamorgan Archives and Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books. National Archives
Applications now open for the Emergency Resource strand of the Cultural Recovery Fund
ACE has now published the full details of how to apply to the new Emergency Resource Support strand of the Cultural Recovery Fund. It offers between £25k and £3m for organisations which are at risk of ceasing to trade viably within 12 weeks. (The upper limit is £1m if an organisation is for-profit). This is a rolling programme with no deadlines until 14th October. There will also be a Continuity Support programme, aimed to secure the future of organisations that have previously received funds from the Cultural Recovery Fund. Details of this option will be published later in the summer. Museums Journal, ACE (Emergency resource support), ACE (scroll for Continuity Support statement)
Welsh Government Transformation Capital Grants open for 2022–23
Museums, libraries and archives in Wales are invited to make an Expression of Interest in the 2022-23 Transformation Capital Grant Programme. The deadline for submitting EOIs is noon on 13th September. Welsh Government, (guidance for applicants), Welsh Government (application form)
£150m Community Ownership Fund will allow local groups to acquire assets from pubs to museums
The Government has launched a new £150m UK wide Community Ownership Fund, which will allow groups to buy out assets and amenities that are important to them and at risk of being lost. Venues covered include sport and leisure facilities, theatres, cinemas, pubs, shops, parks and music venues as well as museums and galleries. The fund will offer up to 50% of capital costs up to £250k, and may in exceptional circumstances offer up to £1m. Applicants must be able to demonstrate the asset is at risk, has a realistic chance of sale or transfer within six months of applying to the fund, and be able to provide a sustainable business plan for long-term running of a site. The fund will run in at least eight bidding rounds until 2024–25. The deadline for the first round is 13th August, with a second opening in December. Gov.uk
NLHF launches £1m fund to support digital volunteering
NLHF has opened a new Digital Volunteering fund to support the development of capacity and skills so that organisations can work with digital volunteers. Volunteering might consist of collecting, uploading or organising data, running online events, website design or maintenance or improving accessibility. Grants between £10k and £100k are available for projects lasting up to 18 months. The deadline for submitting project enquiry forms is noon on 16th August, with full applications due by 27th September. NLHF, NLHF
Audience Agency: up to £5k for small organisations to connect audiences with archiving projects
The Audience Agency is seeking 10 to 15 smaller cultural organisations to take part in action research projects to connect audiences with archives. Funded by NLHF’s Digital Skills for Heritage strand, it will offer between £1k to £5k per project, plus training and a mentor for each group. Projects must be based in England, and must demonstrate how digital can enrich and widen engagement with archive collections. The deadline for applications is 13th August. Audience Agency
Paul Mellon Centre produces short films showing its range of funding, ahead of autumn round
The Paul Mellon Centre has produced six short films showing the breadth of work that it has funded – from Fellowships to research, curatorial and digital support grants – ahead of a new round of funding opportunities opening in the autumn. The films not only highlight new research but showcase important contributions to scholarship and history. Topics range from the British Museum's exhibition 'Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint' to the resurfacing of forgotten AIDS activist videos and the digitisation of the Adam Brothers' Grand Tour letters and writings – with filming at The British Museum, Sir John Soane's Museum and the British School at Rome. Paul Mellon Centre
Measuring local government spending on culture through the ‘austerity decade’
New research has tracked local authority spending on culture from 2010 to 2018. An overview of the study published by the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre finds that grants for all purposes from central to local government fell by 49.1% in real terms over the period, leading to a decline in spending power of close to 30%. Demand for statutory services for children and homeless people also increased in the period. Findings on cultural spend against this background show that:
Although local authority spend on culture is often cited at £2bn per year, this includes things like golf courses, alongside museums, libraries and arts development. £818m was spent by local authorities in the ‘culture and heritage’ category in 2018-19.
There is a significant variation in spending cuts by area – ranging from 1% to 94%, with a minority increasing cultural spend.
Most local authorities made ‘drastic’ cuts in the arts development and support category, with 20 local authorities cutting spending entirely during the period. The authors argue that this leaves a gap between ACE’s ambition in its ten-year plan for culture reaching every village, town and city, and the reality on the ground.
Areas with clusters of greatly reduced expenditure per head on culture can be found in the North West, West Midlands and South West and 14 boroughs of London.
Areas where spend increased include Islington, Haringey, Waltham Forest, South Gloucestershire, Blackpool and Nottingham.
The authors comment that the perception that cuts to culture are a choice of individuals or councils which either ‘value culture or don’t’ is only partly true – with other factors including the need to spend on statutory services, and whether a discretionary service can be redesigned to generate income. They say: “in this context, we can see why ‘Arts Development and Support’ has been vulnerable.”Creative PEC, Petersoc (map of spending per head by cultural form, including museums, for each local authority 2009 - 2019)
NHM receives £3.2m for its Urban Nature Project, aiming to reach 1.5m people
The Natural History Museum has been awarded £3.2m from NLHF for its Urban Nature Project, addressing the rapid decline of biodiversity and wildlife in cities. At its heart will be the transformation of its own five acre gardens with a learning hub, science lab and the doubling in size of its wildlife garden. It also aims to reach 1.5m people across the UK through partnerships with the Prince’s Trust and others. A summer volunteering programme will also allow young people to explore careers in science and nature. Experience UK, NHM
Welsh Government gives £1.1m to eight museums and libraries through Transformation Capital Grants
Five libraries and three museums have shared £1.1m in Transformation Capital Grants from the Welsh Government. Recipients include the volunteer-run Rhayader Museum and Gallery, which will gain a mezzanine floor with extra exhibition space, and the Pendine Sands Museum of Speed, which is being completely rebuilt next to the stretch of sand where many land speed records have been set. Welsh Government, Pendine Sands Museum of Speed, Rhayader Museum and Gallery
Also: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has donated $200m to the Smithsonian to support its National Air and Space Museum, the largest donation the institution has received since its founding in 1846. $70m will cover museum renovations, with the remaining $130 million going towards a new Bezos Learning Center, aimed at reaching ‘every American classroom’. AP News
Levelling Up fund begins to be spent, including on some cultural projects
The Government has begun to distribute its £4.8bn Levelling Up fund, which will be spent on some cultural projects alongside major infrastructure work. In Great Yarmouth, £20.1m received from the Towns Fund includes £450k to turn its historic Ice House into a centre for the circus arts, while in Preston £150k will pay for a statue of Wallace and Gromit. Guardian
Shortlist for Museum of Year features medicine, contemporary art – and a crowdsourced museum
Art Fund has announced the shortlist for Museum of Year. The five sites are:
Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry-Londonderry – run by a team of four staff and has been promoting emerging artists from Northern Ireland since 1992. It ran an art exhibition displayed in the windows of empty buildings across the city in the Spring.
Experience Barnsley – the civic museum which opened in the Town Hall in 2013, created in collaboration with thousands of local people sharing memories and objects.
Firstsite, Colchester – offering a mix of historic, modern and contemporary art, which it aims to make accessible to everyone to address societal challenges.
Thackray Museum of Medicine Leeds – which reopened this year after a major makeover with 11 new galleries, including ‘Leeds 1842’, a look at surviving the slums and their health threats.
Timespan, Helmsdale – based in the North East Highlands, in a village of 800 people, it includes a local history museum, contemporary art programme, public archive, herb garden, shop, bakery and café. The museum says it has ‘local, global and planetary ambitions to weaponise culture for social change’.
The winner will be announced in late September and will receive £100k, with runners up receiving £15k. Director Jenny Waldman Art Fund said “their resilience is nothing short of heroic. Our five finalists are all deeply embedded in their communities and alive to the possibilities of reaching far beyond their locality digitally. They have each shown extraordinary innovation and resolve.”Art Fund, Arts Industry, Museums Journal, Guardian
Tate reviews its climate action so far: from rainwater toilets to solar panels, staff travel – and in-house bees
Tate is working towards a 50% reduction in its carbon emissions by 2023, as compared to 2007-8, and is seeking to reach net zero by 2030. It received a Pioneer Award from Julie’s Bicycle in 2020 to mark exceptional innovation, and has now published an update on some of the actions it has taken so far, which gives a snapshot of obvious and less-obvious approaches to take. These include:
Switching to a green electricity tariff
Reducing staff business travel by 44% between 2013-14 and 2019-20.
Harvesting 226m³ of rainwater annually which is used to flush toilets at Tate Modern.
Installing 330 solar panels, LED lighting in galleries and wi-fi environmental monitoring system.
Making t-shirts in gallery shops from sustainable cotton.
Producing honey from beehives at Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
The gallery also commits to ‘responding to and amplifying the concerns of living artists’ in the light of climate change. Tate
Museums’ Top Tips Guide for environmental sustainability
Culture and environment group Julie’s Bicycle has produced a short Top Tips Guide aimed specifically at museums and heritage sites. Organised by topic, from carbon calculators to reducing plastic use and reviewing suppliers, it offers signposting into deeper resources. Julie’s Bicycle, BBC
Science Museum says that its climate exhibition remains curatorially independent
The sponsorship of the Science Museum’s ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition by Shell has attracted media criticism, with Channel 4 and the activist group Culture Unstained highlighting as problematic a clause in the sponsorship agreement agreeing not to say anything to damage the company’s reputation, although the museum responds that this is a common clause in such agreements. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg also tweeted criticism of the museum. The Science Museum Group’s Acting Chief Executive Jonathan Newby said “we entirely reject the unsubstantiated claim that our curators were in any way inhibited in carrying out their vital role in an expert, independent and thorough manner” adding that SMG sees severing all relationships with energy companies as ‘unproductive’. It was also revealed that the museum ended discussions about sponsorship by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, as it had fallen short of the standard for sponsors laid out in the Transitional Pathway Initiative, which guides its decisions. Channel 4, Art Newspaper, Museums Journal
NHM plan to move 27m items to Harwell campus to help fight biodiversity loss and climate change
The Natural History Museum will move 27 million collection items to its new centre on the Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire when it opens in 2026. Supported by £182m from the Government, the collections will be used towards research to fight climate change, biodiversity loss and emerging diseases. The collections will be digitised on site to generate the big data picture needed to feed scientific discovery. Augmented Reality and genomic analysis will also be applied to get a better understanding of how nature is changing. Blooloop
Google Arts and Culture has launched a new strand, Gardens United, featuring 50 gardens across the country, with contributions from The Garden Museum and Kew. Some feature soundscapes for a more immersive effect, and the site can be used as a gazetteer of places to visit, or an experience in itself. There is also a photo essay on gardens and wellbeing in partnership with Oxford Botanic Gardens. Its Head of Science Dr Chris Thorogood says "we live in an era of nature deficit disorder and the garden is a place of healing for that"Google Arts and Culture, Google Arts and Culture (gardens and wellbeing)
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