The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has finally accepted the use of Receipts and Expenditure (R&E) method to calculate business rates for all types of museums in England and Wales, which will save millions of pounds across the sector.
This follows the announcement in September 2021, after a successful appeal by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) against valuations for three of its sites, that the VOA would no longer be using Contractor’s method to calculate business rates for many museums. However the VOA had proposed to continue the use of Contractor’s method for museums set up by statute (so including most national museums) and those occupying ‘modern’ (post-2001) buildings.
The VOA has now confirmed a change in this policy, meaning that the vast majority of museums will now be valued using R&E method. This means that business rates will be based on a museum’s activity and financial position – rather than being penalised, as a sector, for occupying the large spaces needed to care for and display collections and to welcome communities, which are often expensive to operate and maintain. The change will result in huge long-term savings across the whole museum sector.
The news is a real victory for long-term collective lobbying by NMDC, AIM and others as well as the tenacity of business rates agents, notably Colin Hunter who represented TWAM, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and York Museums Trust in their successful appeals and has been advising sector bodies for many years.
However, the change in the VOA’s policy will not be retrospectively or automatically applied to the 2017 ratings list. This means that any museum wishing to challenge their current valuation, which could result in a significantly reduced and backdated rates bill, needs to lodge an appeal via the ‘Check, Challenge, Appeal’ process. There is a deadline of 31st March 2023 for appeals to be registered – and the process can take some time – so all museums are urged to begin the process immediately if they haven’t already by completing the VOA’s ‘Museums Information Request form’. More information on the appeal process is available in the AIM Success Guide. NMDC, AIM
NMDC response to Museum Partnership Report 2020/21
DCMS has published the annual Museum Partnership Report, which gives an overview of the partnership activities of 22 national museums in the UK. The most recent edition reports on the period 2020/21 which includes both the start of and the most disruptive year of the pandemic. Although activities for the period were disrupted, meaning that particularly lending activity was reduced compared to previous years (around 32% decrease compared to 2019/20), the national museums still engaged in extensive partnership work, including:
At least 1.3m people saw the national collection on display outside of national museums in the UK during 2020/21. A significant drop of 94% from just over 22m visitors reported in 2019/20.
National museums reported participating in 438 formal networks in 2020/21 an increase of 26% on 2017/18 numbers.
15 national museums supported a total of 66 apprenticeships during 2020/21 on a par with 2017/18 numbers. The majority were in Front of House roles.
90 new activities, events or initiatives were not pre-planned but created in response to the pandemic during 2020/21. Even though many staff were isolating or on furlough.
Outgoing Director-General of Imperial War Museums Dame Diane Lees reflected on the report and on partnerships more generally:
"For the past 5 years it’s been my pleasure to be NMDC’s Partnerships Champion. As I reflect on my time working with the national museums in this capacity and look forward to the future, I’m confident that the excellent work of the national museums, and the committed and imaginative national programme managers who drive it, will continue to become ever more strategic and impactful.
They will continue to support, encourage and collaborate with the excellent regional museums across the UK and the huge variety of non-museum organisations they work with – from science centres, universities and schools to charities and community groups – to make sure our amazing national collections are accessible to everyone.
Despite the general population being massively restricted for long stretches of time during the pandemic, museums were still able to share collections with each other, and with a vast array of national and international partners. That at least 1.3m people were still able to see the national collections in the UK outside of their permanent sites is a huge achievement, and 4.6m people also saw them internationally. This exemplifies the sheer power of will to uphold everyone’s right to access culture even in times of extreme difficulty.
Lending works and objects isn’t just a transaction, each loan depends on developing a relationship and becoming a partner. Across all kinds of partnership work, these relationships aren’t always easy to form, it often takes time to develop trust and build confidence, to agree ideas, to find partners to work on different projects and to meet the objectives of organisations involved to ensure they each benefit. During this period national museums were still able to make new connections, with 62 new UK partner organisations and 63 new international partners they hadn’t worked with before. While many partnerships are with existing partners, this also shows the successful ways museums manage to work with others over time and to maintain relationships even in a difficult climate.
This latest report is a testament to the deeply rooted role that the national museums play in supporting the wider UK museum sector and their accessibility to all. The wealth of projects that museums were able to continue or that were newly established during the pandemic really shows their intrinsic value to the local communities they work with and to the wide access they can provide through their networks and digital activity." NMDC | Museum Partnership Report
We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Claire Madge as the new NMDC Newsletter Editor. Claire is a museum consultant, volunteer, and blogger with a particular interest in inclusion. Claire writes the ‘Tincture of Museums’ blog, for which she interviewed a number of NMDC member directors during the pandemic, and has worked with several NMDC member museums including the Horniman, Museum of London and RAF Museum. She also set up the Autism in Museums network and is a member of the Heritage Fund’s London and south committee. Claire began work with the NMDC team in late February. To get in touch with any questions about the newsletter or items for future inclusion please contact Claire at [email protected]
Images this month come from the V&A who have secured the archive of David Bowie for the nation. Over 80,000 items tracing David Bowie’s career as a musical innovator from the 1960s to his death in 2016 have been secured through a donation from the David Bowie estate and a major £10 million gift. The collection will be made available to the public in 2025 through the creation of The David Bowie Centre for the Study of Performing Arts at V&A East Storehouse. The archive includes hand written lyrics, costumes, photography and set designs. V&A East Storehouse will be a behind-the-scenes experience designed within and around V&A’s stored collections.
Manchester Museum reopens and welcomes 50,000 visitors in the first week
Following a £15 million refurbishment and closure for 18 months, Manchester Museum opened to the public on Saturday 18th February. The museum aims to be more inclusive, caring and imaginative with a co-curation approach highlighted in the South Asian Gallery, a partnership with the British Museum. The South Asia Gallery Collective, a group of 30 including South Asian diaspora artists, community leaders and educators supported its development. Their new exhibition ‘Golden Mummies of Egypt’ runs till the end of December.
One visitor and contributor to the Manchester-based Speaker Newspaper praised the museum by saying “Places we have felt excluded from our whole lives and shield our parents away from because they felt like ‘white spaces’, I can now walk into proudly with my mother, whilst she wears her shalwar kameez, and allow her to learn about and celebrate her history.” FT | Guardian | Telegraph | Sunday Times | BBC | NY Times | Museum Association | Design Week | Speaker Newspaper
Tate Liverpool to close for £30 million refurbishment
Tate Liverpool is set to undergo a £29.7 million refurbishment, including a £10 million grant from the Levelling Up Fund. The museum will close on 16th October this year and will remain closed until 2025. Director Helen Legg said it was "time for us to reimagine the gallery for the 21st century". During the two year closure, Tate Liverpool will continue to host events and one-off projects at other spaces across the city. BBC, Liverpool Echo
Science and Industry Museum receives £14.2m funding from DCMS
Urgent repairs and conservation will now take place at the Science and Industry Museum after an award of £14.2m of national capital funding from DCMS. Over the next 2 years the museum’s Grade II listed warehouse will be restored alongside work across its 7 acre heritage site in Manchester. The museum will remain open throughout, though some areas, including the Power Hall, will be temporarily closed. Science and Industry Museum
National Railway Museum celebrates 100 years of the Flying Scotsman
The 24th February 2023 marked the centenary of the Flying Scotsman, the famous steam train, saved for the nation after a fundraising campaign in 2004. The anniversary was marked by a new poem by UK Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and the release of a £2 coin from the Royal Mint. The National Railway Museum will be running a year of events in recognition of the milestone including a new exhibition – Flying Scotsman: 100 years, 100 voices. The working engine will also be heading out on tour across the country this summer. National Railway Museum
Tate Britain to reveal complete rehang in May 2023
On the 23rd May 2023 Tate Britain will open a complete rehang of their free collection displays for the first time in 10 years. Featuring over 800 works by over 350 artists, recent discoveries will sit alongside new commissions. Women artists will be better represented with work by Bridget Riley, Tracey Emin and others ensuring that half of the contemporary displays are by women. Tate’s work to diversifying their collections will see women feature in works from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including many artworks that have never been shown at Tate before. Tate | Guardian | Telegraph | Times [Look back to the 2013 rehang BBC]
Protests outside Tate Britain on Saturday 11th February where a drag queen storytelling session was being hosted led to the arrest of one person. The Guardian reported a group of rightwing protestors were met by counterprotestors led by trans-right campaigners and political groups including Stand Up To Racism. The Independent reported around 60 protestors were present. A spokesperson for Tate said “We do not programme artists in order to promote particular points of view, nor to reconcile differing points of view.” Guardian | Independent | Art Newspaper | Forbes
After a 3 year, £13m transformation, Young V&A will open in Bethnal Green, London on Saturday 1st July 2023. Aimed at 0-14 year olds, the museum will feature hands-on experiences including sensory playscapes, sand pit and open design studio. Highlights include an interactive Minecraft installation. New exhibition Japan: Myths and Manga will open in October which features Studio Ghibli films and Manga inspired fashion. Young V&A | Design Week | Independent
Art Fund and NPG’s call for help to save Joshua Reynold’s Portrait of Omai
Art Fund and the National Portrait Gallery have been working to generate £50 million of funding to secure the Portrait of Omai before 10th March. The painting currently has had an export bar placed on it by the UK Government and is at risk of leaving the country. The work has previously always been in private ownership and has not been on public display in the UK for over a decade. However, if the sufficient funds were raised, the painting would go into public ownership at the NPG. Art Fund
British Museum’s Chairman suggests possibility of ‘hybrid’ deal with Greece over Parthenon Marbles
George Osbourne, British Museum Chair, acknowledged for the first time publicly that constructive talks were ongoing with the Greek government on the contested future of the Parthenon Marbles. In a BBC Radio 4 interview with Nick Robinson on 16th Feb George Osbourne said “I think there is a way forward where the sculptures could be seen by both in London and Athens, and that will be a win-win for Greece and for us.” According to Osbourne the hybrid deal would be necessary to prevent breaking UK law which prohibits the British Museum from returning artefacts. Telegraph | FT | Art Newspaper | BBC
Culture Secretary and Shadow speak at Creative Coalition Festival
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer spoke at the opening gala of Creative UK’s Creative Coalition Festival on 28th February and focused on people and places. She underscored the need to give people the right skills and awareness from a young age so that they can join the creative industries before moving to discuss how she wanted to use the creative industries “to drive growth in every corner of the UK”. Frazer highlighted the need to work across government to build homes and train stations in areas where creative industries are thriving. She also spoke about wanting to understand how the tax system “can best support the creative economy” and that she would set out how she intended to deliver her priorities through the upcoming Creative Industries Sector Vision.
The Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell also spoke at the Festival, outlining Labour’s culture priorities and answering questions on various topics including apprenticeships, issues caused by Brexit, and cultural education in schools. In collaboration with the English Civic Museums Network, NMDC asked the following question to Lucy: Local authorities are the largest funder of museums in the country, and most have seen around 30% cuts to their finances in the last 10 years. The cost-of-living crisis will have a further major impact on local authority budgets in the coming years. What does Labour propose to do to address the crisis in local authority funding for museums and culture?
Powell answered by first focusing on the extent to which local authorities were the major funders of museums and culture outside of London. She said that this dwarfed the level of Arts Council funding and acknowledged the squeeze on funding streams in recent times. Powell also noted that, due to the economic downturn, local sponsorship had disappeared for many smaller museums, which was happening at a time when visitor numbers had not returned to pre-Covid levels. She pointed to her fear for many of these organisations and said that while she wished she could promise that Labour would ‘turn on the taps’ to increase funding, she could not make that promise and that it would be for any future Labour Chancellor to set the budget. She encouraged the audience to look at the experience of cultural organisations under previous Labour governments where local culture flourished and access was widened. Powell underlined that she understood the plight of local authority culture but that she could not make unfunded spending commitments. She reiterated her party’s support for cultural and heritage organisations and outlined the importance of young people's experiential learning through visiting museums, theatres and orchestras. Creative Coalition Festival, Arts Professional, Design Week
House of Lords Committee publishes report: 'At Risk: Our Creative Future'
The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee published the second report of the 2022-3 session on January 17th. The report recognised the creative industries generated more value to the UK economy than the life sciences, aerospace and automotive industries combined. It also noted the growth potential in areas that combine technology with creativity.
The current Government approach was called ‘complacent’ and risked jeopardising the sector’s commercial potential. Areas of comment included:
Skills shortages in the English education system that equipped pupils poorly for the realities of work, in particular the freelance market.
A recognition that funding streams in the creative sector are disparate and complex.
A Government absence at key global gatherings such as the World Conference on the Creative Economy.
The importance of a change of approach that is needed from HM Treasury to the R&D tax relief system to include innovation in the arts.
The report recommended 7 areas for attention including – Recognising strengths / Protect IP / Fund what works / Boost innovation / Address blind spots in education / Follow the data / Support adaption.
NMDC evidence on the likely impacts of technology on the creative industries over the next 5-10 years was also referenced. House of Lords, NMDC evidence
Changes to the legal definition of treasure are aiming to save more artefacts for the nation. The move was prompted after a number of recent discoveries fell outside the scope of the Act. Under the current definition, newly discovered artefacts can only legally be defined as treasure if they are over 300 years and made of precious metal or part of a collection of valuable objects or artefacts.
The new definition will apply to the most exceptional finds over 200 years old, regardless of the type of metal of which they are made as long as provide important insight into the country’s heritage. Professor Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum, said: “The British Museum welcomes the extension of the Treasure Act to ensure museums across the country have the opportunity to acquire more finds of archaeological significance. The reform of the Act will also update its Code of Practice to acknowledge the fundamental role of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (managed by the British Museum in England) in ensuring successful operation of the Act.” GovUK, Museums Association, Guardian
The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology have published their final report examining the mix of UK organisations performing RDI (research, development and innovation) with recommendations. The report noted the contribution by collections-based galleries, libraries, archives and museums, as well as heritage and cultural sector organisations make to the RDI landscape ‘through globally significant direct research activities’. The report also notes the good links that museums and other cultural venues have with local areas which helps to distribute their benefits nationally. The report recommends that support for research undertaken by galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and the heritage and cultural sectors should be increased, and support for long-neglected collections-based research put in place. Gov.uk
The National Lottery Heritage Fund launched a new 10 year funding framework on Thursday 2nd March. Heritage 2033 will see a focus on investing in ‘place’ rather than individual sites to support a robust heritage infrastructure.
Thresholds will be raised from £5m to £10m, or above in exceptional circumstances, to support ambitious projects over a longer time frame. Simplified investment principles will see the current criteria of 6 objectives reduced to 4.
Protecting the environment
Inclusion, access and participation
The Heritage Fund is looking to invest over £3.5 billion of National Lottery players' money over the next 10 years. Heritage 2033 will also see a new approach to partnerships at a local and national level to help deliver longer term impact. Heritage Fund | M + H Advisor
*Survey Extended* Research into admissions pricing policy in museums and its impact
The Association of Independent Museums and partners Arts Council England, Museums Galleries Scotland, the Welsh Government, NMDC and the Art Fund have commissioned DC Research Ltd working in partnership with Durnin Research Ltd to deliver ‘Research into admissions pricing policy in museums and its impact’. The survey should be completed by Friday 24th March 2023. Survey
Migration Museum secures permanent home in the City of London
Planning development has been approved for a new development at 65 Crutched Friars near the Tower of London for a new Migration Museum on the bottom of three stories of student accommodation in partnership with real estate company Dominus. After a 10 year search the Migration Museum will have a permanent home. They are currently based in a temporary home in Lewisham Shopping Centre, where they hope to remain until 2025-6. Migration Museum
Woven Foundation offers innovative curators funding support
The Woven Foundation is offering up to £40,000 for non-national museum curators in England to support an independent curator to deliver a project. The grant is designed for innovative thinking, register your interest now. Woven Foundation
The Sensational Museum – a £1m research project aiming to transform access and inclusion
The Arts and Humanities Research Council has funded a £1m project to prototype and test new ways of accessing museum collections and cataloguing objects. Running from April 2023 – July 2025, workshops and events across the UK will develop a sense based approach to collections and communication. The project partners include Collections Trust, GEM, Museums Association, VocalEyes and Curating for Change. A number of universities are also part of the project. The partnerships between researchers and leading heritage organisations will aim to reimagine experiences of museums putting disability at the heart of museum practice and recognising the diversity of visitors. Sensational Museum
Arts Council NI publishes consultation report on Access Scheme for disabled audiences at art venues
The Arts Council Northern Ireland published new research on 9th February into the potential introduction to Northern Ireland of a UK wide Access Scheme for disabled, D/deaf and neurodivergent audiences buying tickets for creative and cultural events and venues. The Access Scheme has been identified as a key government priority in the UK Government’s 2021 Disability Strategy. Key findings include:
81% of potential users were in favour of an Access Card scheme
Venues would prefer a ‘light touch’ approach to proving eligibility
65% of respondents including potential users, event organisers, and venues would prefer the card scheme provided free of charge
Southbank Centre is the first UK venue to be awarded Platinum accessibility status
Awarded by the charity Attitude is Everything, the Southbank Centre is the first Platinum member of the Live Events Access Charter. Originally launched in 2000, the charter provides a framework to build disability equality into every aspect of a venue or event. Currently 210 venues have gained awards. Southbank Centre
Accessible museums, galleries and historical sites of the Balkans in one place
The first map of its kind that contains information on the accessibility of more than 40 sites in the Balkans for visitors with disabilities has been launched. The online map and digital publication covers physical accessibility as well as accessible content and tools at the partner sites. NEMO
Artificial Intelligence ‘chatbot’ ChatGPT and the implications for museums
Although chatbots are not a new phenomenon, the artificial intelligence (AI) software that allows users to interact via text and ask questions and respond to prompts has taken a step forward with the launch of ChatGPT. The global museum sector is responding to the challenges and opportunities of using AI. An article from the American Association of Museums considered how ChatGPT might be used to generate museum labels, catalogues and audio guides. MuseumNext were discussing the chatbots back in 2019. Last month the Art Newspaper highlighted 5 ways ChatGPT could help the culture sector create social media content. The Guardian even challenged art critics and experts to choose between authentic art works and those produced by AI. AAM | Art Newspaper | Guardian
Museums Galleries Scotland in partnership with Museum Development North West and Museum Development UK are facilitating Carbon Literacy Training and Train the Trainer Support Sessions for organisations involved in ‘The Wild Escape’. Dates for Scotland are 17th and 23rd of May. Participants must attend both sessions. More dates will be added in June-Sept for interested museums in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. MGS
The Museum of London and King’s College London have published new research into the lived experience of working class Londoners. Museums, Class and the Pandemic highlights that whilst issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender have received more attention in recent years working-class communities have been largely forgotten. The report highlights the need to adopt recruitment strategies that support museums in attracting and retaining working-class museum professionals. A more diverse workforce is critical to the diversification of collections and narratives, as is the diversification of governance bodies including Boards. Report | Art Newspaper
Oxford Cultural Leaders 2023 opens for applications
For the first time since the pandemic, Oxford Cultural Leaders (OCL) will be offering both an online and residential programme for 2023. OCL is an international programme for leaders in the cultural sectors, working at senior management level, who want to redefine their identity as leaders and reimagine their institutional vision at a time of increasing challenge for the sector. Designed and delivered by Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums in partnership with the Saïd Business School. The online programme runs from 12-16th June, applications are now open with a deadline of Monday 27th March.
The residential programme runs from 24-29th September, applications open 2nd May and close Monday 26th June. Oxford Cultural Leaders
Applications are open for the Art Museum Award 2023 organised by the European Museum Academy and are open to art museums and art galleries that put the social role of art at the heart of their work. Deadline for submissions 1st April. EMA
Beamish Museum appoints Chris Loughran Chair alongside new trustees
Chris Loughran has been appointed as Chair of the Board of Beamish Museum and will take up his role on 1st March. Chris has a background in senior leadership, policy and operations. He is currently co-founder and director of Sympbio Impact, a sustainable financing and strategy consultancy and senior advisor at the HALO Trust. Beamish Museum also welcomes 10 new board members – David Alexander, Mauricio Armellini, Daniel Jackson, Stephen King, Racheal Lennon, Dr Elouise Leonard-Cross, Conan McKinley, Bridget Stratford and Ian Thomas, alongside Durham County Council Councillor Elizabeth Scott. Beamish Museum
The Natural History Museum has appointed Professor Dame Jane Francis to its Board of Trustees. She joined as the Royal Society Trustee appointed by DCMS to a four year term beginning on 1st February 2023. Jane is Director of the British Antarctic Survey and also involved in international organisations, such as the Antarctic Treaty and European Polar Board. NHM
ICON, the Institute of Conservation, has appointed Emma Chaplin as Chair to lead their Board of Trustees. Emma was previously the Director of AIM, the Association of Independent Museums, from 2018 to March, 2021 and is a Trustee at the Creswell Heritage Centre. Interim Chair Sophie Rowe said "Emma’s professional experience is an excellent fit for Icon. She really understands how to balance the needs of Icon as a professional body with its charitable objectives." Her appointment begins on 6th April. ICON
'Addressing legacies of colonialism nationally and internationally' is the title of this year's ICOM UK conference taking place in Glasgow on the 17th and 18th April. The conference aims to meaningfully address the legacies of colonialism with museum professionals from the UK and around the world through one day of conference sessions and a second day of local tours.
Sessions will explore questions around reparations, climate justice, restitution, education, and what these topics mean to museums, and how can we meaningfully grapple with them. Some of the confirmed speakers include Paul Gardullo from the National Museum of African American History and Culture; Lisa Williams from the Edinburgh Caribbean Association; Nelson Cummins from the Coalition for Racial and Equality and Rights; Patricia Allen, Glasgow Museums; and Zandra Yeaman from the Hunterian.
The ICOM UK 2023 Conference is a collaboration between ICOM UK, NMDC and Glasgow Life, with support from Museums Galleries Scotland, National Museums Scotland and Barker Langham. Tickets can be bought through eventbrite and are discounted for members of NMDC, ICOM UK and Glasgow Life at £70 including lunch and networking opportunities. Institutional tickets are also available along with discounted student tickets. Eventbrite
On Wednesday 22nd March, the Museum of London will be hosting an online conference on volunteering. Session will focus on: Volunteering during a cost-of-living crisis; Volunteer recruitment and retention; and Strategies to motivate volunteers. Museum of London
The DLNET will explore the cycle of formal and informal digital learning projects in cultural heritage projects. The online conference is on 15th and 16th March with breakout sessions on accessibility and co-curation. DLNET
Thursday 16th March sees the next in a series of webinars from V&A facilitated Culture in Crisis programme. Making Places explores how the decisions made after a crisis can impact a sense of place for local communities and how rethinking, reshaping and reconstruction of the built environment needs to balance rival interests and priorities. Culture in Crisis (website) Making Places (event)
Greenloop 23, the sustainability in visitor attractions conference, is taking place during Earth Week 25th-26th April 2023. This online event will share latest trends and developments and highlight best practice. Greenloop 23
3rd-5th May sees the return of the World Summit on Arts and Culture organised by the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA) and the Swedish Arts Council in Stockholm, Sweden. The summit brings together leading policy makers, researchers, managers and practitioners from arts, culture and related sectors to explore the topic of artistic freedom. Registration closes 14th April. IFACCA
10th-11th May sees the return the of the Museums and Heritage Show. Booking is now open and the programme has been published. Talks include sessions on Smart art protection, Interpretation for diversity and inclusion, Using crowd funding to raise funds and Achieving carbon neutrality in travelling exhibitions. Register for a free place on their website. Museums + Heritage Show
On 12th May, Culture24 will be sharing the results of their latest Let’s Get Real research programme. 10 organisations have focussed on building a thriving hybrid working environment and will share insights in an online seminar. Culture24
Heritage Now: Relevance and Community – [Re]Interpreting Relevance Webinar
Culture in Crisis webinars are now available. Culture in Crisis is a programme facilitated by the V&A. The 1 hour webinars cover – Community Ownership (2nd Feb) and [Re]Interpreting Relevance (16th Feb). The panels are drawn from international organisations who have a shared interest in protecting cultural heritage. Culture in Crisis
Also: Touring Exhibition Group are hiring an Executive Director to lead in the development of the organisation following their successful Arts Council England IPSO funding award. More details can be found on the TEG website. Touring Exhibition Group