Katie Childs, Policy and Projects Manager, National Museum Directors’ Council is passionate about museums and explains why it is vital to get behind the new I ♥ Museums campaign.
You may have noticed little lime green and blue I ♥ Museums logos appearing on Twitter. The National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) – with the support of all of the other museum representative bodies – has embarked on a public campaign ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review, budget consultations for local authorities and greater devolution of power to regions and cities. We would very much like all London museums to be a part of the campaign.
The UK museum sector is more vibrant, popular and internationally respected than it ever has been, but this position is now at risk. Investment in museums by central and local government has drastically reduced since 2010, and as the Chancellor announces that non-protected Departments have to model up to 40% budget cuts, this will continue. National museums sponsored by DCMS have had cuts of c.30%, and local authorities have reduced their investment in museums by up to 60% in some cases. Many museums have managed this swift change with characteristic pragmatism and transformed themselves into cultural enterprises. Nevertheless, however successful those enterprises are, the additional income or new ways of working are unlikely to enable them meet the high fixed costs of the three unique things about museums that enable them to have the impact they do: their collections, their buildings and skilled staff. The impact of further cuts may not always be seen immediately (or even within the life of this Parliament) but it will certainly be felt by those who need museums in the future.
NMDC is launching the I ♥ Museums campaign now because it has never been more important for museums to demonstrate public support and why museums matter. Museums preserve, promote and protect one of the few irreplaceable public assets: the nation’s collective memory, knowledge and history. As museum professionals, we work in one of the few civic institutions that simultaneously serve a local, regional, national and international audience, and an online audience who may never cross the threshold. Uniquely, museums serve a public past, a public present and a public yet to be born.
Visiting a museum has never been such a popular pastime, and I am not merely basing this on the length of the queue outside of the Natural History Museum. The DCMS Taking Part survey shows that 62% of children and 52% of adults in England visit a museum each year. NMDC wants to capitalise on this popularity and the affection people have for museums, and provide a platform for museums to demonstrate that they are loved and trusted institutions both nationally and within local communities.
And if your museum isn’t one which receives direct public investment, then we still want to you to be involved in the campaign. All museums benefit from public investment in some form. Your museum may have received project funding from Arts Council England, or worked in partnership with a national museum. You might have had some capital funding from the local council or received some helpful advice from your museum development officer. Like a giant Jenga puzzle, the health of the whole museum sector depends on not significantly weakening any aspect of it.
The campaign website – http://ilovemuseums.com/ – includes resources for museums to use online and onsite, as well as a way for the public to sign up and say why they love museums. People can upload their own photographs and tell us what museums mean to them. @ILoveMuseums drives the social media element of the campaign and will be used to announce different stages and press moments in the campaign. There are digital resources to add to social media accounts, draft letters to send to local councillors and MPs, and details of how to order pin badges, ballot boxes and cards. From September there will be advocacy tools including briefings and a document detailing Museums Matter.
Museums can use the campaign locally, be as creative as they wish and organise their own I Love Museums campaign. NMDC will use it nationally to illustrate why museums matter across the UK. We hope museums of all sizes – from the biggest nationals to the smallest volunteer-run collection – will take part and unite behind the campaign.
Katie Childs, Policy and Projects Manager, National Museum Directors’ Council