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'Museums Matter' advocacy document available to support your museum to 'make the case'

The National Museum Directors' Council's (NMDC) new document Museums Matter sets out the case for investment in museums ahead of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The document has been designed to support the sector’s own advocacy work at national, regional or local level, to fit alongside case studies from your own organisation. 

Museums Matter illustrates how public investment in museums of all sizes and scope enables them to contribute to eight key public policy priorities across the UK:

  • creating a thriving, vibrant and diverse cultural life for the nation;
  • contributing to regional prosperity;
  • developing tourism – museums are the country’s most popular visitor attractions;
  • strengthening the UK’s soft power;
  • developing peaceful and prosperous communities by creating safe and welcoming community spaces;
  • promoting health and well-being;
  • education, life-long learning, skills development and apprenticeships;
  • being world leaders in scientific, technological and creative innovation.

The document describes how museums are uniquely able to make such a significant impact because of their collections, their buildings and the expertise of their staff.  It argues that museums preserve, promote and protect one of the few irreplaceable public assets, the nation’s heritage, which is fundamental to maintaining a healthy and prosperous civil society.

Pulling together a wide range of evidence and case studies from across NMDC's membership, Museums Matter demonstrates that the UK’s museums are more popular, innovative and internationally respected than they ever have been, and provide a substantial return for the public investment they receive.  

Museums Matter – key messages:

  • Museums preserve, protect and promote one of the few irreplaceable public assets: the nation’s collective memory, knowledge and history. Preserving our heritage through museums is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a healthy and prosperous civil society.
  • The UK museum sector is more vibrant, popular and internationally respected than it has ever been. Visitor numbers have never been higher: in 2014-15 there were over 71 million visitors to the UK’s national and major regional museums alone.
  • There is a public expectation that general and local taxation supports publicly-owned museums – Arts Council England’s 2014 Public Attitudes Survey showed that 70% of the public support maintaining public investment in museums. 
  • Museums make a significant contribution to key public policy priorities across the UK: regional prosperity, tourism, soft power, peaceful and prosperous communities, health and well-being, education and apprenticeships, innovation and the knowledge economy, and the creation of a thriving, vibrant and diverse cultural life for the nation.  
  • Museums generate much greater economic value than the sum of their public investment – £3 for every £1 provided by the public purse – something very few public services can demonstrate. 
  • Museums are now cultural enterprises and have adapted quickly to reductions in public funding. However, although museums now earn a greater proportion of their own income, changes in operation take time and investment to be effective and are rarely sufficient to cover all of a museum’s costs.
  • Public investment benefits all museums, including the independent sector. The whole museum sector is intrinsically connected, and the strengthening or weakening of one element has a long-term impact on the whole.
  • Between 2010 and 2015 public investment in national museums reduced by 30% and investment by local authorities has reduced markedly, in some cases as much as 60%. These significant reductions have been compounded by the short notice with which have had to be implemented.
  • Since 2010, museums have prioritised keeping the doors open, and national and many civic museums have maintained free admission. To do this, they have had to reduce the less visible curatorial and conservation functions. This is not sustainable.
  • Given the high fixed costs of caring for the public collections, further significant cuts to public investment in museums will inevitably mean the consideration of unpalatable options: opening hours will be cut, charges introduced and programming and partnership work, including loans, markedly reduced. The access the public has to their collections and their heritage will be much diminished.
  • In the wider context of local and central government spending the amount allocated to museums is very small. Cutting this will have only a minimal bearing on budget reductions, but the value of what is lost will be much greater. Future generations will not forgive this generation should it be the one which fails in its duty to protect the nation’s heritage.

Dowload the document here