RSA report describes how museums can be ‘anchor institutions’ and agents for social change 2 Sep 2020

A new report by the Royal Society of Arts and British Council, ‘Heritage for Inclusive Growth’ looks at how museums and heritage can be harnessed for social, environmental and economic good. Many of its eight detailed case studies show how regional development can centre around museums. For example, St Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff was redeveloped against the background of a city that is relatively diverse and educated, but where a third of the population are living in poverty. People from marginalised groups (including homeless people and those dealing with substance misuse) were given a voice and a chance to volunteer, as part of the 3,000 volunteers and 120 public and third sector bodies involved during and after the development. Adult learning, apprenticeship programmes, gardening opportunities, and construction contracts explicitly awarded based on their capacity to generate social value were all part of the picture. The report argues that this shows how museums can be ‘anchor institutions’ within their local economies. Another important strand for the project is to encourage heritage institutions to tell a broader range of heritage stories that speak to the whole public and offer concrete work opportunities. For example the Birmingham-based NLHF-funded ‘Don’t Settle’ project aimed to build heritage skills for young people of colour who are under-represented in the sector. Although the report was largely drafted pre-covid and Black Lives Matter, it offers a path showing how museums and heritage should respond to what the authors describe as “an unprecedented and widespread level of engagement with issues around heritage, identity, place and belonging in our public conversation”. RSA, RSA (full report)