NMDC and MA gather for a day of advocacy at Westminster 7/6/2018

NMDC and the Museums Association held a reception at the Houses of Parliament on 21st May to celebrate the UK museum sector and make the case for public funding and support for museums. Politicians from all four UK nations attended, including Culture Minister Michael Ellis and Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan. Several NMDC member museums displayed objects to illustrate the quality of UK collections and the diversity of innovative activity across the sector, including the Natural History Museum which brought a 3D-printed head of Dippy the Diplodocus, currently attracting thousands of visitors on a national tour around the UK; National Museums Northern Ireland, which displayed a 1988 visitor book from the Ulster American Folk Park signed by a 12-year-old Spanish schoolboy who was killed later that day in the Omagh bomb, part of the new Troubles galleries; and Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, which displayed a 1920s brooch given to Tyneside suffragette and MP Ellen Wilkinson, now used in engagement sessions with local women on issues around women and politics.

Former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey hosted the event, speaking alongside NMDC Chair Ian Blatchford and MA President Maggie Appleton. Ian Blatchford said museums should be part of the solution for a country facing 'confounding challenges' because they are 'optimistic, authentic, trusted, inclusive, crucial to civic pride and our standing internationally'. He particularly emphasised their reputation abroad: "Our museums are deluged with requests for partnerships in China, India, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and every country that is part of the new economic order. They see new museums as crucial to engaging young people and families in science, design and creativity. They are looking to Britain and its museums as beacons of excellence, so let’s invest in them properly. Adored abroad, but diminished at home is not a good look... Our partners long to understand how a tiny country can be a world leader in universities, culture, museums. They want dialogue, exchange, reciprocity [and] museums are brilliant at this.” Ed Vaizey also emphasised the international soft power of UK culture, often harnessed on David Cameron's foreign trips, and spoke too about the importance of museums creating access "not just digital access, but physical access to collections for people who may not regard a museum as their first and natural port of call". Museums Journal