New report explores challenges faced by local authority museums

Arts Council England has just published new research into the economic resilience of local authority museums. The independent report by TBR explores the challenges faced by museums across England following reductions to local authority funding. The report highlights the significant level of current and expected cuts, but also finds that many local authority museums are doing well. Key success criteria are strong, proactive leadership, alignment with local authority priorities, and a culture of enterprise not only in a museum but in its local authority.

Speaking about the report, AIM’s Executive Director, Tamalie Newbery said:

“AIM’s members include recently formed trusts as well as many long-standing members who have strong relationships with their councils. Many of these are demonstrating their independent spirit in responding to the challenges of reduced support: they have clarity of purpose and are able to show how they contribute to their community; they are also developing their organisations to be more business-like and resilient. The experience from the independent sector is that the culture of organisations is as important to their success as their business models and strategies. Those that thrive are purposeful, focused on their visitors and community and ready to adapt and try new things – characteristics highlighted in the AIM Hallmarks.”

Hallmarks Centre image

“Those that thrive are purposeful, focused on their visitors and community and ready to adapt and try new things – characteristics highlighted in the AIM Hallmarks.”

The ‘AIM Hallmarks of Prospering Museums’ features in the report in section 2.4 ‘Organisational attitudes’ which says: “A focus on structure also obscures the need for a clear business purpose and recognition of the challenges involved in establishing a successful business. Leadership and understanding how the organisation functions as a business is important. The mind-sets of the museum, local authority and funders are significant here. Change should be seen as normal and necessary, and resilience as an ongoing process, not an outcome.”

Earlier this year, AIM joined with the National Museum Directors’ Council to enable independent museums affected by local authority funding to share their experiences and ideas at an event called  The Journey from Dependence to Independence. It highlighted that despite the extremely difficult situation, most are ambitious about finding new ways of working to ensure the museums they care passionately about can continue to be places of learning and enjoyment for the public.

John Orna-Ornstein, Director, Museums, Arts Council England, said:

“Even at a time of challenge many local authority museums are thriving. We’re seeing museums across the country whose own enterprising spirit is matched by their local authority – the two must go hand in hand. Local authority investment in culture and heritage is vital, but we are working in tough economic times. This research is a challenge to local authorities as well as to museums, to seek out creative ways to see our nation’s museums flourish for future generations. No one size fits all, but there are plenty of models for strategic, thoughtful change at a time of reduced funding.”

Other Key points in the Arts Council England report reveal that:

*There is no one-size-fits-all response to the changing funding environment

*Developing an entrepreneurial culture will be vital to future resilience

*It is important to focus on selecting the right business model and strategy

*Effective, pro-active leadership is vital

*Skills remain a barrier to change

You can view and download the full report HERE

 

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