A Manifesto for Museums: Building Outstanding Museums for the 21st Century

9 March 2004

Today museums across the country have joined together to publish A Manifesto for Museums, calling for a five-year programme of investment to sustain their current success and build for the future.

The Manifesto is being launched alongside a set of new reports by the NMDC (National Museums Directors' Conference), the MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives Council) and GLLAM (The Group for Large Local Authority Museums) which demonstrate the contribution museums make to society and underline the case for increased government funding.

A total of £115 million per annum is needed for museums: £35 million to fully fund the "Renaissance in the Regions" programme for regional museums, £50 million to enable national museums to carry out their core activities and programme of modernisation, an additional investment of £15 million to fund a series of innovative joint initiatives and £15 million for acquisitions.

Britain's museums are the envy of the world. They are custodians of over 170 million objects, one of the most important places of education after schools and universities, they are cornerstones of community cohesion and local and personal identity, are vital to national and international tourism, are key players in urban regeneration, and act as catalysts for individual creativity and inspiration. The 100 million visitors per year to 2,500 museums across the country create a cultural economy worth more than £3 billion.

The potential for England's regional museums is already beginning to be realised through Renaissance in the Regions. This groundbreaking national programme is, for the first time, steering new central government investment into regional museums. Phase one of Renaissance is transforming museums in the North East, South West and West Midlands. The improvements in museum provision in those three regions have been startling: visits by school children are up 28 per cent, museums have doubled their work with community groups, and nearly £7 million has been spent improving museum collections in those regions. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the national development body for the sector, has already laid the foundations for a similar transformation across six other regions, and is working with government to secure the additional £35 million per annum required to roll out this project nationwide.

National museums, too, are calling for additional investment in order to ensure that they maintain their international status and meet the challenges of the new century. The extra demands placed on the nationals, and the cumulative effect of under funding, has meant that the national museums have reached a critical stage. Without substantial investment, major UK institutions will lose expertise and fall behind their equivalent institutions in the United States and Europe. And critically, they will be unable to fulfil their potential for partnership arising out of the Renaissance framework that is building centres of excellence right across England.

The key facts are:

  • There are more than 2,500 museums and galleries in the UK outnumbering universities and colleges by eight to one.
  • UK museums receive more than 100 million visits each year, more than all the country's live sporting events combined.
  • Parents view museums as the most important places for educating their children after schools and libraries.
  • 85% of parents believe visits to museums should be part of the National Curriculum.
  • 4 out of the top 5 tourist attractions in the UK are museums.
  • 85% of overseas visitors cite museums and galleries as among the prime reason from coming to the UK.
  • Using Treasury formula, the economic impact of the UK's national museums is in the region of £2 billion and of the whole museum sector the estimate is £3 billion.
  • National museums are responsible for over a million educational sessions per year and expect to host and inspire 1 .72 million this year.
  • The very first term of Renaissance funding (autumn term 2003) has seen a 28% increase in school children visiting museums in the Phase One regions.
  • There has already been a 52% increase in the number of children engaged in outreach activities run by Renaissance museums.
  • 45% of the teachers visiting those Phase One regions are doing so for the first time.
  • 73% of the teachers believe that their pupils are learning new subject specific facts thanks to their museum visit, and 94% of teachers attending a museum activity see it directly linking to the National Curriculum.
  • The vast majority (72%) of teachers using museums in Phase One regions were very satisfied with the provision made for them by the museums.
  • Museums in the Phase One regions have been particularly effective in working with schools located in areas of high levels of deprivation. Nearly 30% of school visits were from schools located in wards which have been classified as being amongst the 10% most deprived wards in England, and 46% of the visits were made by schools located in wards which fell into the 20% most deprived wards in England.
  • The most recent MORI GB Omnibus Survey [February 2004] reported that 82% of respondents felt it was important that their local town or city has a museum or art gallery.

Download the Manifesto for Museums

New Research Highlights Contribution of National Museums

NMDC have also published three new reports today highlighting the cultural, educational, economic and social contribution of the national museums, libraries and archives. more