September 2013

NMDC newsletter: September 2013
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NMDC newsletter: September 2013
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In the September issue:

and much more.

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Section headings: Cuts| Great up North: good news from Scotland | Tourism | Museum News | Events | Protecting collections: from saintly to sweary | Bring up the bodies | Copyright and access to images | Museums and employment | Appointments | Fluffy animals corner | Other sales and saves | Strategy | Counting audiences | Better ways of doing funding | Jobs | And finally... |


Disproportionately large cuts for the arts as Local Authorities balance budgets

Figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government reveal that although overall Local Authority spend will increase slightly in 2013/14, there will be a £124m reduction in spend on the arts - a cut of 4.2%.  This is a greater cut than to any other area of service.  Many organisations affected will also risk losing support from the Arts Council as it also plans how to pass on its 5% cut. The Stage, DCLG (spreadsheet)

£72m Arts Centre the Public to close in November

‘The  Public’ arts centre in West Bromwich has become the highest profile casualty of the cuts so far.  The centre had been plagued by financial difficulties since inception.  Speaking for Sandwell Council, Darren Cooper acknowledged the usefulness of the centre in regenerating West Bromwich but said “the fact of the matter is the council can’t continue to subsidise The Public. The overall cost to the council is currently about £30,000 a week. That’s nearly £1.6 million a year. That money is council taxpayers’ money. In the face of the cuts the council is facing from central government, this can’t carry on.”  It is likely that the building will now become a sixth form college. The Stage, BBC

Roundup of other museums under threat

The Museums Journal lists several museums facing difficulties following local authority cuts.  The Falconer Museum in Moray (where the Council earlier this year threatened to reduce arts funding to zero), will close for six months from October, although a local group is seeing if it is financially viable to take it over. Maidstone museums has been restructured to become self-financing but with loss of staff, local donors have bought Usk Rural Life Museum, and a campaign is seeking to rescue the Museum of Electricity in Bournemouth. Museums Journal 

Germany ‘more cultured’ than the UK, says Welsh composer

While the UK has again cut its arts spend by 5%, in Germany Culture Minister Bernd Neumann has announced an 8% increase to the budget for the Bundeskulturstiftung, the German federal cultural foundation.  Leading Welsh composer Karl Jenkins commented on the contrast on BBC Wales, saying that Germany is a more cultured country than the UK.  " I read something the other day when they were asked 'how can you do this in these economic times?' The response was that 'we are investing in the cultural future of our country', and that's how it should be seen." Jenkins, 69, is now the most frequently performed living composer on the planet.  He attributes his musical career to the support he received at grammar school. Arts Industry (subscription only), Telegraph, Wales Online, Also: Arts Council Chairman Peter Bazalgette and David Fleming of National Museums Liverpool will be presenting a debate ‘Crisis, what crisis?’ at the Museums Association conference in Liverpool in early November.  Museums Journal Back to top

  Great up North: good news from Scotland

Abbotsford restored

The former home of Sir Walter Scott has been restored and has reopened to the public after £11.4 million of work supported by nearly £3m from the Scottish government.  Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has visited and presented the Abbotsford Trust with a letter written by Sir Walter Scott to mark the occasion.  Scottish government

Research shows connection between culture and good health

A study based on the Scottish Household survey of 2011 shows a strong connection between good health and attendance at cultural and historic venues.  Healthy Attendance? The Impact of Cultural Engagement and Sports Participation on Health and Satisfaction with Life in Scotland records that those who visited a cultural place or event in the last 12 months were 60% more likely to report good health than those who did not.  Whilst a proportion of these findings may be attributable to the fact that healthy people participate in more activities, there still seems to be a large margin of health connection, even for cultural activities which don’t involve great mobility.  For instance, those who participated in dance were 62% more likely to report good health than those who do not - but those who read for pleasure are also 33% more likely to be healthy.  Those who visit libraries or museums are 20% more likely to be in good health. An earlier longitudinal study Growing up in Scotland showed that participation in arts as a child makes it more likely that people will continue to engage in adulthood.  Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said “That’s why this Government has funded activities like Bookbug, Scottish Book Trust's Early Years programme, which encourages parents and children to read together from birth, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s Astar CD which is helping parents in Scotland to introduce their babies to the joy of music.” Scottish government, Scottish government (full report), Arts Industry (subscription to view)

Investing in Gaelic

The Scottish government is investing in a number of projects to preserve and promote the Gaelic language.  It has just granted £2m for a Gaelic dictionary project.  The National Library of Scotland is also working with Tobar an Dualchais to pilot a sound archive project.  33,000 pieces of sound recording covering the last eighty years have already been digitised.  Meanwhile the FilmG competition is offering prizes to young people to encourage Gaelic film making.  The latest Government funding will support the competition’s training programme which will include schools and community-based sessions on story development, filming and editing and master-classes with actors and filmmakers. Scottish government Back to top


Norfolk Tourism Award

Visit Norfolk’s Tourism Awards 2013 are open for nominations until 7th September.  Categories include best visitor attraction, best marketing initiative, best food and best Broads experience.  Museums Norfolk are encouraging people to vote for their favourite museums.  Visit Norfolk

Who’s gonna tweet your wild horses?

Wiltshire Museums and the Arts Council have been working on a project that celebrates Wiltshire’s White Horses and brings people closer to them both on foot and through the web. While the very committed spent five days walking a 100 mile circuit of the White Horses in late August, others followed via @whitehorsewalk and through gallery installations and apps. Sound installations contributed from around the world will soon be installed at each White Horse.  The route remains available at ViewrangerCreative Wiltshire. Back to top

  Museum news

Reaching 1m: Turner Contemporary gets three times as many visitors as projected

When Turner Contemporary opened in 2011, it projected an audience of 300,000 for its first two years.  Now it has just announced 1 million visitors in only 28 months.  Director Victoria Pomeroy said “A million visitors is a tremendous landmark for Turner Contemporary and it is brilliant to see the town buzzing once more. The gallery has made a real difference to the local economy and has helped to change perceptions about Margate. There are more new businesses opening in the Old Town and on the High Street. With almost a million new visitors to Margate, the town is beginning to thrive.” The gallery is now one of the most visited outside of London, and has brought an estimated £21.1m to the local economy since it opened. Turner Contemporary  

Ironbridge Gorge among prizewinners for heritage education

Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust has won the Sandford Award for Heritage Education for work at two of its sites.  Enginuity was praised for offering schoolchildren the chance to explore science in a way impossible in the classroom.  Jakefield Tile Museum, which offers tile painting classes to all ages, was described as an almost magical place with welcome surprises around every corner.”  There are around 30 winners each year, and the next round of applications will be open in December. Ironbridge Gorge, Sandford Award

V&A acquires Vivien Leigh archive

10,000 photographs and letters belonging to the actress Vivien Leigh, who died in 1967, have been acquired by the V&A.  Some of the material will be on display in the museum’s Theatre and Performance Galleries from the autumn, including love letters to her husband Laurence Olivier.  Museums Association, BBC, The Stage Back to top


Collection care conference at the National Archives

The National Archives is hosting a one day conference on 20th November to showcase the programmes and tools it has developed for collections care over the last few years. Speakers from many other key collections bodies will also be appearing.  Attendance costs £50 and includes lunch and symposium papers.  National Archives

Past is Prologue: using archives to create artwork

Engage are offering a one day conference on September 18th about how archives can be used as a departure point for creating visual artwork, with talks by artists and curators from the Whitechapel and Whitworth Galleries.  Lift Festival (for details), Eventbrite (booking)

The art gallery - Making it a positive, interactive and healthy
place for older adults

With people living longer and increasing levels of dementia and loneliness, museums and galleries have the potential to offer an environment of care and understanding for older people.  The Royal Society for Public Health is holding an event focusing on how museums can adapt their outlook and infrastructure to engage older visitors.  RSPH (booking)

Free Museums at Night briefing sessions

Culture24 are offering free briefing sessions for museums and galleries across the country who are interested in participating in Museums at Night, or in bidding for one of ten artists to create a work or event in their museum as part of the festival.  Briefings take place in late September in London, Birmingham and Bradford and will include feedback from organisations who have recently ‘won’ artists.  Museums at Night

Culture24’s Lets Get Real conference

Culture24 are hosting a conference on using digital media more effectively in museums. The programme draws from the experience of Penguin, Time Out and Government Digital Services as well as museum sector digital frontrunners like the Tate and V&A.  As we reported earlier in the year, the sector may be behind the curve in its use of digital information to measure impact, while hugely successful global businesses like Amazon use complex algorithms to extend their reach.  Culture24 Director Jane Finnis also gives bite size core advice in a Guardian article, which points out that the UK’s 40 top cultural venues currently attract less than 0.04% of all UK web traffic.  Culture24, Guardian

MCG’s Museums on the Web 2013: Power to the people - Tate Modern on 15 November 2013 

The Museums Computer Group web conference is taking place at Tate Modern on 15th November - tickets start at £67 and the event is expected to sell out quickly. Themes include:
  • Projects that integrate public participation and core museum work, including crowdsourcing, citizen science, citizen history, user-generated content;
  • Grassroots digital projects, whether people organising themselves to save museums, crowdfunding, finding innovative uses for museum collections and knowledge, or using museum spaces in new ways;
  • Enabling museum staff to learn and play with digital technologies and platforms, and understanding how public projects can change organisations.
Eventbrite (booking), Museums Computer Group

Digital project management in 90 minutes

Learn digital project management from experts from the Imperial War Museum on September 10th.  The practical workshop will address large and small web projects, multimedia and mobile.  It will also look at how to get buy-in from your institution and plan workflow effectively.  MCNpro

CyArk: Digitally preserving heritage sites across the world

The CyArk 500 project aims to digitally record 500 heritage sites globally from Mount Rushmore to Egypt.  They point out that all are endangered from natural deterioration, natural disasters or looting and destruction at times of civil unrest.  A conference at the Tower of London on 20th-22nd October will formally launch the project.  CyArk

Museomix: Second call for applicants

Museomix UK is taking place at Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire on 8th-10th November with simultaneous events in France and Quebec.  It brings together ‘museum professionals, innovators and digital experts, art lovers, science enthusiasts, and others passionate about education and culture to imagine a new way to share and enjoy museums.’  The event is free except for a small contribution for food. The closing date for applications to attend is 16th September.  Museomix

Green Knowledge event at Coventry Museum

The Greening Museums project which is working with 12 museums in the West Midlands is offering a second event, at Coventry Museum, for sector staff in the area who want to learn techniques to care for buildings and collections in a greener way.  The café style event is a mix of training, knowledge sharing, access to  expert information & meeting new partners. It takes place on 19th September and is free.  Eventbrite, Greening Museums

Sixth World Summit on Art & Culture

IFACCA’s world summit offers a global view of the cultural sector, particularly considered in the light of political and cultural change and shifting economics.  Registration has just opened for the event which takes place in Santiago, Chile on 13th-16th January 2014.  Arts Summit

Regional museum groups launch autumn training programme

Museums Development North West has launched a free, varied training programme for museum staff in the region, covering everything from funding, to retail, Natural History Collections and numismatics in a variety of events which run from now until Spring next year.  The South West Federation is also running a free programme, which includes disaster planning workshops at the Tank Museum. MDNW, SWFed

Met organises new global museum directors meeting

Met Director Thomas Campbell is inviting a small group of museum directors from every region of the world to a colloquium next year.  While US-Europe meetings are well established, there has been less communication with museum directors in growing economies in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Campbell said “I’m very conscious that our European peers, with significant government funding, have been starting various initiatives around the world…I’m also very conscious that we’re all increasingly thinking globally because of digitisation, cheaper travel and the greater mobility of our audiences.”  Participants will be announced in November.  Art Newspaper Back to top

  Protecting collections: from saintly to sweary

Suffering Saints: medieval panels stolen for a third time from Devon church

In 1997, Holy Trinity Church at Torbryan in Devon was home to 44 painted panels depicting saints dating from the 1450s - rare survivals of Reformation iconoclasm.  Today however only 34 remain after three thefts.  The most recent, between 2nd and 9th August this year, saw two panels crudely hacked out.  The Churches Conservation Trust which cares for the disused church has put out a call for help and information to recover the panels.  They are also drawing attention to their recent History for the Future campaign and hoping to raise £0.5m to help protect more church artefacts from similar thefts.  They remain determined not to shut churches which they describe as “the national art galleries of medieval England” - but instead believe that growing visitor numbers and public awareness are the best protection for their collections.  Taitmail/Arts Industry, BBC, Churches Conservation Trust, CCT (History for the Future), Art Newspaper

Designation survey: remarkable collections in ‘chaotic’ museums

The Arts Council is asking museums to fill in its survey looking at the ‘designated collections’ in museums and how it should evolve.  In a commentary the Museums Journal explores what should happen to remarkable collections held in museums that are ‘in chaos’ and not adequately looking after the material they hold.  They suggest an ‘at risk’ register in these circumstances, similar to the one for buildings.  Museums Journal, Surveymonkey (Arts Council survey)

Crap in the Attic? The management and use of Natural History Collections

The uncompromising title of this conference from Oxford Aspire reflects recent reports of natural history collections nationally which have been neglected and underfunded.  The event aims to assess what natural history collections exist in the Oxford region, what expertise is supporting them, and what shared problems might be solved collectively.  Tickets are free, and the event is open to all organisations within a two hour driving radius of Oxford. Eventbrite/Oxford Aspire

Mallawi museum ransacked in Egypt

Following ongoing unrest in Egypt, the Mallawi museum has been ransacked and over 1,000 objects stolen, leaving only 5% of the collection behind.  The museum’s ticket agent died and several security guards were shot in the raid. The Antiquities Ministry is now protecting some other sites: 30 tanks currently sit outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and local citizens have used social media to raise awareness and deter gangs.  Modest rewards are being offered for the stolen artefacts, and a comprehensive list of stolen objects has been circulated online.   Other sites are being looted by armed gangs, and the Art Newspaper describes discarded scraps of painted coffins being burned to boil tea.  Art Newspaper, Facebook (Mallawi Museum stolen objects), Art Newspaper (fuller story, subscription only)

Future uncertain at Flat Time House

The former house of artist John Latham, who died in 2006, is up for sale.  Flat Time House, which the artist imagined anthropomorphically with rooms corresponding to ‘brain’, ‘mind’ and ‘body event’ has continued to be used as an exhibition and artists space.  His children hope that £1.5m can be found to preserve both the house and its programme, but if not, the Peckham Rye property will be sold on the open market.Flat Time House, Art Newspaper (subscription only page)

English Heritage thanks ‘pearls’ and ‘angels’

Property developer David Pearl has pledged £80,000 to English Heritage’s Blue Plaques scheme after reading that a 34% cut in funding had severely cut back the project.  Simon Thurley, Director of English Heritage said “After the cuts we thought we would have to reduce the scheme a little but we were never going to stop it. It’s one of best things we do. When it was made public that we’d got into slight financial difficulties, Mr Pearl, who really is a pearl among men, came out of the blue and said ‘I love the history of London; I love the Blue Plaque scheme. Please let me help’.” English Heritage have also shortlisted 17 heritage rescue projects for their ‘Angels’ award, which celebrates groups that work to save local heritage.  Winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 21stOctober. English Heritage (Angel shortlist), Evening Standard Back to top

  Bring up the bodies

Shrinking corpses and shaky floors at Bath Abbey

Emergency work has begun on Bath Abbey after it emerged that the tombs of thousands of people beneath the building have settled down, leaving voids which threaten the floor with collapse.  Somewhere between 4 - 6,000 people were buried beneath the building over a period of 300 years. Charles Curnock, speaking for the Abbey said they realised the extent of the problem when “we went in underneath one of the medieval pillars [and] there was fresh air underneath it”.  The Abbey’s predicament should at least produce some good material for their recently launched oral history project, which follows the work of cathedral staff since 1950. BBC, Bath Abbey Also: Vast caves have been found beneath Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, transforming understanding of the site which is ‘less like a villa and more like a city’. Guardian

Richard III: Yorkists go to court

The Plantagenet Alliance - a group of descendants of Richard III - have received permission for a judicial review in an attempt to get the remains of the King reburied in York.  Granting permission the judge however warned against an ‘unseemly’ legal battle and encouraged both sides to accept the findings of an independent panel. Meanwhile a study by the Lancet has discovered that the monarch was probably food for worms even before his untimely death: studies of his body reveal a roundworm infection.  Telegraph, Guardian, Guardian (reporting on Lancet piece), Lancet Back to top

  Copyright and access to images

NMDC responds to Copyright Exceptions Technical Review

The Intellectual Property Office has published draft changes to legislation to alter some copyright exceptions. A number of these changes will have an impact on museums, libraries and archives. The two proposed exceptions which may have the greatest impact on museums are:
  • Extending a copyright exception to museums which will allow them to make a copy of a work in their collection without having to seek permission from the rights holder(s) where the purpose of making the copy is to preserve the original work and its content. This exception would not be over-ridden by a contract; and
  • To allow museums to make works in their collection available to view on their premises via "dedicated terminals" without having to ask seek permission from the rights holder(s).
NMDC has responded to these proposed exceptions here, with more details on the website here.

Art and privacy: a different US spy drama

As the world debates the fallout of the NSA/Edward Snowden spying scandal, in the visual arts the legal limits between the right to create art and right to privacy are also being tested.  A family has unsuccessfully sued a New York artist after he spent hours secretly photographing them in their home using a telephoto lens.  Martha and Matthew Foster first knew about the intrusion when images of their children by photographer Arne Svenson appeared in a New York gallery.  He removed the pictures on request, but the family lost a subsequent law suit. The judge said “while it makes plaintiffs cringe to think their private lives and images of their small children can find their way into the public forum of an art exhibition, there is no redress under the current laws of the State of New York”.  This outcome is the opposite of the June 2013 resolution of a court case in Germany: artist Matt Frisch must now pay a large sum to ‘Technoviking’ after filming him in the street in 2000 in a clip which subsequently went viral.  Art Newspaper, Neatorama

Getty Museum makes major commitment to open access images

The Getty Museum has announced that as from August this year, 4,600 high resolution images in its collection will be available free to use.  The images are also free of copyright and may be modified and used in any way, with more images to be made available over time.  The museum says about the decision: The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief…In its discussion of open content, the most recent Horizon Report, Museum Edition stated that “it is now the mark—and social responsibility—of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.”  Also: Meanwhile in the UK, the Collections Trust are keen to hear from museums who are making their collection images partly or wholly available for open re-use.  Please contact [email protected] and see their handy Digital Benchmarks Tool.  One UK institution just dipping its toe in the water of Open Access is the York Museums Trust, who are working in partnership with Wikipedia, have a Wikimedian in Residence, and have just uploaded a first image of the ‘volcano chaser’ Tempest Anderson to the site. Getty Magazine, Horizon Report, York Press, York Museums Trust  

High art replaces advertising - and hotel porn

For two weeks in August the ‘Art Everywhere’ project worked to place huge art posters instead of advertising on billboards and at bus stops across the country.  The project was supported by the Art Fund, £30,000 in public donations, various advertising firms and funders and the Tate. Pictures ranged from John Singer Sargent’s Gassed to Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. Meanwhile a large Norwegian hotel chain has replaced its porn channels with contemporary video art.  Owner and philanthropist Petter Stordalen said "Art is important to me, but hotel art has always had a bad reputation – cheap paintings that match the sofas and so on. I wanted to redefine hotel art to be something unique."  His flagship hotel in Oslo also contains original art in every room, including work by Peter Blake and Tracy Emin. Guardian, Art Everywhere Back to top

  Museums and employment

Curation (and librarianship) on the cheap

A job advertised on the Arts Council website by Newham New Deal partnership has been widely condemned as it asked for someone with postgraduate experience to do essential curatorial work for free.  Nick Poole of the Collections Trust was among those criticising the advert: “It is not appropriate to offer this kind of role on a voluntary basis. It devalues curators and their skills, and is indicative of a short-term approach to curatorship that I find worrying considering the long-term nature of what museums do”. Newham New Deal is not the only cultural organisation seeking to replace professional staff with free labour.  A survey issued by Lincolnshire County Council as it laid plans to close dozens of libraries asked for volunteers to take over from librarians.  Museums Journal, the Bookseller Also: Meanwhile the Guardian provocatively asks ‘curators, who needs them?’ in an article that largely overlooks the need for professional knowledge when looking after a collection.  Guardian

Heritage employers invited to join creative apprenticeships scheme

Creative & Cultural skills are helping museums and galleries in Wales to take on apprentices.  Financial support up to £3,900 is offered for each apprentice hired, and other assistance includes identifying job roles, finding a training provider and free mentoring training.  C&CS are particularly interested in apprentices for front of house, community arts management, live events work and fundraising.  There was no further information on C&CS’s website at time of going to press, but [email protected] can provide further details. The offer comes as government figures reveal historically high levels of young people who have no experience of work - now topping 640,000.  The lack of apprenticeships for young people under 25 is one probable cause.  Meanwhile Museums Galleries Scotland’s paid internships scheme has attracted 2,000 applicants for only 20 roles.  IPPR, Museums Journal

Culturally engaged young people more likely to volunteer

The Third Sector Research Centre says that young people who are engaged in cultural activity are much more likely to do voluntary work. Higher socio-economic groups are more likely to volunteer, but social class disappears as a predictor among groups who attend theatres, museums, concerts, sports events or art galleries. Charity Times

Zero hours contracts widespread in museums

Following news that the trading arm of the Tate, Tate Enterprises Ltd, employs casual staff on zero hours contracts, the Art Newspaper has researched more widely and discovered that many major institutions including the National Gallery, British Museum, V&A, National Maritime Museum and National Museums Liverpool also use zero hours contracts, especially for events, catering and for busy times in galleries.  Responses from museum press offices and some anonymous comment from people on these contracts shows that there are a wide range of experiences.  One employee cited by the Public and Commercial Services Union spent seven years on temporary contracts at National Museums Liverpool.  They added “People are left living on the brink, not knowing if they can pay the rent”.  A spokesperson for the National Maritime Museum by contrast talked about their employment of local students and staff who had retired: people who genuinely wanted occasional, flexible work. But discussing people on zero contracts for years, he added “I would be worried about what is in it for the worker”. Meanwhile the government is reviewing zero hours contracts and a report will be issued later in September. Museums Journal, Art Newspaper (link by subscription only), Third Sector

Event: Teaching Museums: developing today's workforce, opening the door for tomorrow's

Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service is holding its first ‘Teaching Museums’ conference. It is free to everyone in the sector interested in discussing ideas, practice and current challenges around workforce development. The programme includes:
  • Leadership and diversity – John Orna-Ornstein, Arts Council England
  • Working Wonders – Gaby Porter, Museums Association
  • Skills for the Future – Jo Reilly, Heritage Lottery Fund
Plus an overview of the teaching museum, discussion groups, tours and lunch.  For full details contact [email protected] by 20th Sept. Back to top

Royal Armouries has appointed a new Director General, Dr Edward Impey.  He is currently Director of Heritage Protection and Planning at English Heritage, and will take up the post in October.  Royal Armouries, Museums Journal The Contemporary Art Society has announced that Caroline Douglas will be its new Director.  She was previously head of the Arts Council Collection.  Contemporary Art Society Culture Secretary Maria Miller has appointed Sir Laurie Magnus as the new Chairman of English Heritage. He is currently deputy Chair of the National Trust.  English Heritage,  DCMS Five new members have joined ACE’s national council, bringing a diversity of experience that includes digital, philanthropy and cultural entrepreneurialism.  They are David Bryan, Julie Finch, David Joseph, Nazo Moosa and Matthew Bowcock.  ACE

DCMS calls for more cultural honours nominees

The deadline for the Queen’s Birthday Honours is 20th September and DCMS has urged more people to suggest names from the cultural sector.  Heritage Alliance says “The 2014 New Year's Honours List saw just seven nominations from five of the twenty seven heritage and conservation organisations approached by the Department - none of which were for women or ethnic minorities.” DCMS Back to top

  Fluffy animals corner

Elizabethans with guinea pigs: National Gallery unveils new find

While putting together the exhibition Elizabeth and her People which opens on 10th October, the National Portrait Gallery uncovered what may be the earliest image of a guinea pig in a portrait.  The picture, now titled Three Unknown Elizabethan Children, was painted around 1580 and is privately owned.  A girl aged seven in elaborate clothes holds the slightly stiff and ornamental looking beige and white guinea pig.  Guinea pigs were probably first brought back from South America by Spanish traders.  National Portrait Gallery, Culture24, Independent

Australia and UK both in hot pursuit of Stubbs’ Kangaroo

As we reported last month, the government has placed an export ban on a picture of a kangaroo by George Stubbs.  Stubbs’ painting was based on reports from Cook’s voyage to Australia, and possibly on attempts to inflate the skin of the dead animal.  Now two rival museums on opposite sides of the planet are fundraising to secure the picture and a companion image showing a dingo.  Ron Radford, Director of the National Gallery of Australia said "The National Gallery of Australia currently has more than 50 engravings related to this painting, and there exist many more. These works belong in Australia's national art collection, the country's largest and most balanced collection of Australian art."  Meanwhile the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has recruited Sir David Attenborough to support their bid.  He says "[NMM’s] Cook collections are, of course, of world importance and I have no doubt that these two Stubbs paintings should be placed among them."  The bid has already attracted £3.2m from the HLF and £200k from the Art Fund, but NMM must find a further £1.5m by November to retain the images in the UK.  Both pictures are on display in Greenwich and the museum is raising money and awareness under the #saveourstubbs hashtag.  However at the Museums Association there is some support for a public suggestion that the two institutions should simply co-own the paintings.  DCMS, Guardian, NMM, Museums Association (scroll to bottom of article) Back to top

   Other sales and saves

More export bar items from DCMS

DCMS has published a list of other objects where an export bar has been imposed.  Already Top Gear has got behind a campaign to keep a 1929 Bentley Blower, which has been valued at just over £5m. A private donor has contributed £100k of the £150,450 needed by the Jane Austen House Museum to retain a ring belonging to the author, which will otherwise become the property of US singer Kelly Clarkson.  Paintings of northern Australia in the mid 19th century by Thomas Baines are being sold by the Royal Geographical Society, to plug a hole in their pension scheme.  The material already has an Australian buyer, who is understood, unlike RGS, to be able to display the images publicly.  The HLF are happy with the sale, but the Arts Council are not and threaten a review of RGS’s designated status.  The export bar runs until the end of October. Finally papers relating to ‘Hero of Quebec’ James Wolfe are also barred to see if a UK buyer can be found. Top Gear, Museums Association, DCMS, Art Newspaper (link is subscription only)

National Museums Liverpool court win against architects

Architects brought in to complete work on National Museums Liverpool’s £72m building have been ordered to pay £1.1m after a court found they had been negligent, leaving the building with a series of defects when it opened in 2011.  As well as problems with steps and terraces, one ceiling has partially fallen down.  Director Sharon Granville said “This financial award for the external works means that we will now be able to rectify the long-standing issues with the external steps and terraces at the Museum and make them accessible to the public as soon as possible.” BDOnline, Architects Journal

Wadebridge museum finds third new home

A small local museum which has twice been forced to close - in the 1980s (after its building collapsed into the river) and in 2010 - is reopening in a new niche after a housing developer offered it a space.  The collections on display include material from the recently closed North Cornwall Museum in Camelford. Wadebridge Museum, This is Cornwall

Margaret Thatcher’s school listed

Following advice by English Heritage, Kesteven and Grantham Girl’s School in Lincolnshire has been listed as a Grade II building.  The former school of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it was built in 1910 and is still in use.  Thatcher’s name is among those listed on the school’s head girl board., BBC 

Labour councillors dispute Riesco sale

As we reported last month, Croydon Council has been widely under fire for plans to sell £13m of items from the Riesco Collection of valuable Chinese ceramics.  In the latest twist, Labour councillors are trying to get the sale debated as a ‘key decision’ as the costs of the sale are likely to top £1m. At the point of going to press Croydon Council press office promised their most recent response, but none has been received. This is Croydon

Taliban assassination survivor opens huge public library in Birmingham

Birmingham has opened Europe’s largest public library. Ten years in the making, it expects 10,000 visitors per day. Francine Houben who runs the architectural practice which designed the library says “we have designed the space for change, to last over the next 100 years" The library was opened with an inspirational speech from Malala Yousafzai, the teenager shot in the head by the Taliban eleven months ago for supporting girls' education. She now attends school in Birmingham after being treated in hospital there.  BBC, Guardian, Telegraph Back to top


Wales publishes museums marketing strategy ‘for all’

Cymal has published a museums marketing strategy to cover the country until 2016.  They emphasise that the report has been written for everyone involved in the promotion of museums - from volunteers to local tourist boards as well as governing bodies and potential partners. The strategy acknowledges the breadth of the sector, from small independents to state funded institutions.  It says museums of all sizes need a ‘more entrepreneurial spirit’ as budgets are cut.  It focuses particularly on training for staff and volunteers in better marketing - and on selling the museum experience better to the non-going museum public.  The published copy is the ‘short version’ - but if anyone would like the extended version, an executive summary or the report in Welsh, please contact [email protected]. Welsh Museum Federation

Culture vs poverty in Wales

Welsh Minister for Culture and Sport, John Griffiths has announced that he wants to strengthen the role of the cultural sector in tackling poverty in disadvantaged areas of Wales.  He has appointed Baroness Kay Andrews OBE, retiring Chair of English Heritage, to produce a report about how to proceed.  The report is expected to be published in the new year.  Welsh Government

Museums Development East Midlands launches new web resource

MDEM has built a new, greatly improved website bringing together resources for museums in the East Midlands region.  As well as funding alerts it covers:  “developing your museum as a business, going digital and planning your strategy, developing new audiences or engaging young people, developing and conserving collections, accreditation, alternative funding, training and professional development”.  MDEM, MDEM (newsletter signup), @MusDevEm Back to top

  Counting audiences

Taking Part statistics show decline in children attending museums

This year’s annual release of statistics show generally high levels of engagement of children with cultural spaces including:
  • 99% of children engage with the arts each year, with 92% saying they had taken part in the previous week;
  • 72% of children aged 5 - 15 had been to a heritage site in the last year;
  • 73% had visited a library;
  • 61% had visited a museum or gallery. 
In a close reading of the figures, the Museums Association pointed out that while the trend for engaging with the arts has generally stayed very high in recent years, museum attendance for children has markedly dropped by around 10% since 2009.  It is not yet known whether this is driven by cuts in outreach and less school trips, or a lower number of family visits.  Museums Association, (report), (stats dashboard with handy line graph visualisations)

ALVA reports huge rise in visits to major attractions in summer 2013

A survey by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions of their 52 members reveals that 22.3% more people visited compared to 2012.  Among the highlights are gardens and zoos, which benefited from the better weather compared to last year, and London blockbuster exhibitions such as the British Museum’s Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum and the V&A’s Bowie.  The Roman Baths also received 16% more visitors.  It’s likely that a weak pound against the Euro and recession-squeezed Britons holidaying at home have also had an effect.  ALVA, Telegraph

Removing barriers for disabled audiences

Shape have produced a new report, Understanding Disabled People as Audiences, which looks at the barriers to participating in the arts for this section of potential audiences.  A major finding is that problems with public transport are a deterrent.  There are around 11 million people with a life-limiting disability or illness in the UK.  Shape offers a solution to some difficulties such as offering an access service to help people travel to arts venues, as well as training and access consultancy for the venues themselves. Examples of excellence mentioned in the report include the National Portrait Gallery’s Access Group and Disability Action Group, which have been running for nine years and which make sure the gallery is offering an optimum service for all kinds of disability.  Arts Council, Shape Arts Back to top

  Better ways of doing funding

Happy Museum announces third round grant winners

The Happy Museum has announced a third round of grant winners who will collectively receive around £100k towards projects that link wellbeing and sustainability in museums.  Among the recipients are Woodhorn Charity Trust’s comedian in residence scheme, Kirkstall Abbey’s wellbeing workshops mixing meditation, food growing and music and Abergavenny Museum’s project combining weaving and bee keeping.  Happy Museum, Museums Journal

Nesta advocates ‘real time evaluation’ for museum projects

Nesta argues that data from grant applications is being locked in the publicly invisible world of funder and funded, and that more transparent data would make it easier for funders to give to institutions who embraced this change.  They write: "Imagine that instead of sending data monitoring back via a paper report, we could gather data directly inputted by projects through simple content management systems, this would then be turned into a series of live graphics which would monitor performance against indicators in real time." They cite simple ‘data dashboards’ published in real time by institutions as an example of this, such as this one from the Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art. Their findings echo those of the NCVO’s recent report The Secrets of Success which describes how a group of UK funders use and share evidence in practice. IMAM, Alliance for Useful Evidence, Nesta

Big Lottery Fund makes grant applications easier for communities

The Big Lottery Fund has announced changes to make community bids for funding to be more streamlined and make it easier to see what the chances of funding success are for each bid.  Big Lottery Fund (blog), Big Lottery Fund (reaching communities)

ACE announces strategic touring funding

ACE has given £902,000 to eight projects in round nine of its strategic touring funds.  They include the National Portrait Gallery’s Picture the Poet which will be travelling to six venues across the country and Furtherfield’s participatory digital art project which will appear in six shopping centres in the North and London. ACE, Furtherfield

Some useful funding summary articles

We have previously mentioned changes to Gift Aid for small donations, but Arts & Business provide a useful summary here.  Arts&Business The Irish Times has published a brief whistlestop tour of funding streams for cultural work, including some which are available in Ireland only.  Irish Times The HLF have blogged the big picture of their new framework for funding which was launched in April.  M+H Advisor Back to top

Read a full selection of jobs from NMDC members here.

  And finally…. Whovian hotspots
Although museums will shortly be commemorating many more serious events in the life of the nation, for the under-eights (and an embarrassingly large proportion of their friends and relatives) the 50th anniversary of Dr Who in November is the most significant upcoming date on the cultural calendar.  Visit England has produced a handy list of Whovian hotspots across the country, ranging from Stonehenge to big autumn exhibitions. But first prize for inventiveness goes to ice cream makers Snugsbury, who by popular local demand have produced a 35ft straw Dalek now located in a field near Nantwich.  A Snugsbury representative said “It’s been packed”.  VisitEngland, Snugsbury, Chester Chronicle Back to top

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