Written evidence submitted by Museum of
South Somerset (arts 59)
Main points in the discussion are:
The current system of funding for museums
is not the correct one. How to distribute funding from DCMS for
the Arts and Heritage, in particular museums. Paragraphs 10-16.
What impact recent, and future, spending cuts
from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage
at a national and local level?
1. Anyone working in the heritage and arts
sector would acknowledge that our sectors are not as imperative
to public welfare as hospitals, waste collections etc. but the
sector does make a difference to the enjoyment individuals receive
in life. This is why the sector should still receive Government
2. The museum I work in was founded on the
idea that to celebrate victory in World War I, something should
be built to the memory of the men lost in battle. Something that
would inspire people, give them enjoyment and to sometimes challenge
their perceptions of life and the answer was a museum.
3. We are only a small museum but just to
give an example of the enjoyment received, I am quoting a recent
letter from a child:
"Dear owner, me, my friend Louise and Char.
We really enjoyed it here and it is amazing. Please tell the manager.
We wrote this about your museum. P.S. Love the clothes. IT IS
4. Museums engage with all ages and levels
of societies, at a time when social mobility is important. It
is good to remember that museums appeal to; and are for everyone
and not just an elite section of society.
5. Hub museums will find it difficult to
operate as they are at present; following cuts in funding for
museums. However, Community Museums (the smaller market town museums)
will probably not see a significant change in their day-to-day
running. Community Museums are used to running on low budgets
already and accept that they do not receive the same proportionate
funding that is awarded to Hub Museums. Receiving funding via
a hub museum is a bonus for any Community Museum, it is not expected.
6. It will be a challenge for the hub museums
to become more commercial, sustainable and self-supporting rather
than self-indulgent. An example of a commercially successful exhibition
is the Banksy exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
Exhibitions need to be of a subject that the public wish to view,
not of a Victorian Gentleman's personal collection of items. I
doubt that the public would queue for five hours plus to see a
Victorian Gentleman's personal collection as they did to view
7. Museums are imperative to Tourism and
also the health and well-being of the general public. Museums
showcase history and culture to international and domestic visitors,
in 2009, tourism was worth £115.4 billion
to the UK economy and museums played an important part in attracting
visitors. History gives a person an identity as shown in the BBC
television programme Who Do You Think You Are? For a country
where personal identity has been culturally important since the
12th century, hundreds of years before other European countries,
to remove access to history is to remove access to personal and
What arts organisations can do to work more closely
together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make
economies of scale?
8. Arts organisations need to cut bureaucracy
and red tape and focus on being accessible to the general public.
Resources and information should be shared, as it is possible
that certain jobs are being duplicated within several different
organisations. Partnership working is the key.
What level of public subsidy for the arts and
heritage is necessary and sustainable?
9. The level of public subsidy for the arts
and heritage which is necessary and sustainable is one which keeps
the present facilities at least open, if not operating 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. Museums, if they have to, can run on
very little, with the resources they have. The question would
be how to obtain funding to purchase important historical donations.
Whether the current system, and structure, of
funding distribution is the right one?
10. The current structure of funding distribution
for museums is not the right one. A system is needed to ensure
fair distribution of what funding will be available in the future,
at a faster speed. At the moment, Renaissance South West, a partnership
of five museums, distributes the programme of investment. In the
South West, a largely rural area, the five museums are all in
urban areasBristol, Bournemouth, Exeter, Plymouth and Truronote
none in Somerset. As a consequence the majority of the funding
received is concentrated on these five museums.
11. In the Renaissance South West Business
Plan for 2009-11, the Royal Cornwall Museum received £1,063,000
in specific funding whereas the Bristol Museums received £1,946,000.
A disproportionate figure when you consider the populations of
Cornwall and Bristol. A case could be argued that Somerset and
Cornwall have compatible rural and urban areas and also populations,
so why wasn't the County Museum in Taunton awarded hub status
and a budget of £1,000,000+.
12. I have used these figures to point out
an example of disproportionate funding in the current system.
Another example of problems with the current system is the time
limit you have to wait until you hear whether you have been awarded
funding. Do the hub museums wait until perhaps a more "local
to them" project applies for funding? The successful Heritage
Road Show (1,000+ visitors in 2008, 2,500+ visitors in 2009, 0
visitors in 2010 as no access to funding)
in Somerset has had problems with obtaining funding, it is either
awarded very late and it is a rush to organise the event or awarded
too late and the event has had to be cancelled. The way forward
is to focus on how to better distribute these funds appropriately
and to keep the momentum of events like this going.
13. The best way to distribute funding is
not to make the Museums responsible for the distribution of funds
but the Government DepartmentDCMS and making individual
posts accountable for the distribution. The Museum Development
Officer network is the best way to distribute funds in the regions.
All counties within the jurisdiction of Renaissance South West
have at least one Museum Development Officer. With funding becoming
ever more increasingly limited, the Museum Development Officer
is a post, which should know which museums will do the most with
funding awarded, who needs it the most and who will make the best
use of it. A case of best practice and good value.
14. The Museum Development Officer could
be made directly responsible to the DCMS for funds. The DCMS should
not be wary of making one individual accountable for funds distribution
within a county, the Museum Development Officer will also become
accountable to the Hub Museums and the Community Museums, who
will find it easier to find out where funding has been apportioned
than it is at the moment. It would also be feasible to have a
post, which oversees the Museum Development Officers in a region,
perhaps the Museum Development Manager for the South West. This
would be another check for accountability for funds.
15. Since the appointment of an MDO for
worth of funding has been obtained for museum projects including
£1,500 for Crewkerne Museum to create loan boxes, activities
and resources around the local weaving and webbing industries.
16. I understand that Renaissance South
West had an underspend of £4 million in 2009-10. I'm afraid
that I have no evidence of this, just hearsay but if it is correct,
this demonstrates that the funding is not being distributed adequately.
The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm's-length
bodiesin particular the abolition of the UK Film Council
and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council?
17. The Museums, Libraries and Archives
Council was important in recognising and implementing national
standards for museums. It is important that this role continues
in a certain form. Museums are still suffering from the time,
previously to the MLA, where paperwork was not completed, items
went missing in museum's stores and curators treated collections
as their personal property and many limited public access to the
collection. To have an important historical object, for example
a Neolithic stone arrowhead, and to have no context or information
on this object because the person who knew all about it had the
information in their head and is now dead is extremely frustrating.
This has happened too often even in a small museum like the Museum
of South Somerset and is not a system that museums should be allowed
to be returned to.
Whether businesses and philanthropists can play
a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level?
18. Most certainly businesses and philanthropists
can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local
level. The most important and interesting historical items in
our museum's collection have come from "local families".
Families who have lived in the large houses in South Somerset
and who have wished to do something for their community and to
be remembered for their generosity. The idea that the Government
should be responsible for heritage and arts is one that needs
to be changed. We are all responsible and in giving time, an object
or money to an organisation is to be encouraged.
Whether there need to be more Government incentives
to encourage private donations?
19. Definitely. Perhaps tax relief or even
an Honours system acknowledging the contribution a private individual
has made to the country's heritage could be incentives. The enjoyment
that a member of the general public can obtain from seeing an
amazing painting or an historical object cannot be measured. If
the donor could sometimes be made aware of this enjoyment and
how important it is culturally and personally to an individual,
it would make more people wish to come forward. Museums are very
good at receiving objects for donations and cataloguing them and
then hiding them away in a museum store. We store this information
for everyone, it should be accessible to everyone and it should
be made public as to how important this is.
32 Letter held at Museum of South Somerset Back
Report by The Museums Association entitled Tourists
Visitor figures received from Somerset County Council Museum and
Library Service Back
Funding report by Natalie Watson, MDO for Somerset. Back