March 30, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 30 March 2020

Notes from today’s DCMS-hosted museum sector meeting: 30 March 2020.

  1. The broad picture

Many heritage organisations, including independent museums, do not have the capacity to continue trading for more than a few months, notwithstanding the various support schemes announced by the government. University museums will be looking at the (more or less damaging) loss of revenue but are institutionally sheltered from near-term business failure. However, if numerous non-university museums fail financially, there are likely to be knock-on consequences for the funding and health of the wider sector that are difficult to assess at present.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The details are still emerging, and there will be further guidance published very soon, but the expectation is that universities will not in general be furloughing employees, hence will not be likely to be eligible. Should any member be aware that their university or a university proposes to furlough staff (i.e. require them to take unpaid leave), please let us know.

  1. Building access

The Co-Chairs wrote to Universities UK on this matter on Friday 27 March. The last substantive paragraph, requesting support for the registration of collections staff among those performing essential work, appears now to be superceded: DCMS advise that ‘Anyone who has to travel to work, can travel to work’.

We are aware that a number of universities are in the process of generating letters which officially confirm that individual staff are required to go to work (for us, attend sites to undertake security and environmental checks). Although we are not aware that UK police are yet asking people going to work to produce proof of their need to do so, museum directors may wish to provide staff with letters now, to ensure that they do not encounter difficulties, given that it may take central university services some time to provide such documents.

  1. Construction

It was acknowledged that this has been an area of confusion. DCMS staff say that the government does not require construction projects to halt. If your institution is engaged in a major project, and there is uncertainty as to whether work will carry on or not, you may wish to seek guidance from the DCMS team (covid19-mcp@culture.gov.uk), which may help clarify the options for your university estates managers and contractors themselves. Of course, work may stop on some sites because contractors’ staff are self-isolating, etc., but in so far as we can understand the official position, it is that work may continue.

Nicola Kalinsky / Nicholas Thomas
Co-Chairs
University Museums Group

March 30, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 25 March 2020

The Co-Chairs have joined a DCMS museum representatives’ group that is currently running a short meeting every week (the other participants include ACE, NMDC, the MA, AIM, the Heritage Fund and the devolved administrations).

The headlines from the meeting were:

  1. Building access

Following the UMG Committee discussion referred to in yesterday’s update, many members have been concerned that university closures may preclude access to museum sites for the purposes of conducting security and environmental monitoring checks. DCMS is clear that visits by security or collections staff to ensure the safety of collections count as ‘essential’. This is equally so for library special collections. It was noted that for many institutions there is a legal duty to ensure preservation. If any members are finding that the leadership at your institution, or estates management staff, are seeking to shut down your access for these purposes, you may advise them that formal guidance from the Cabinet Office will be published in coming days which makes this position clear.

  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

While this is under the umbrella of support for ‘businesses’, all UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme will be eligible, including public sector bodies and charities. The current guidance is at the link below; it will be further updated in coming days:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

The scheme enables 80% support for the wages of staff who cannot undertake their duties and are on furlough (i.e. are not being paid). Where universities have made a commitment to retaining staff on full pay or sick pay, this scheme will not be relevant. Note also that the roles of staff who continue to be employed part-time cannot be supported through this scheme.

  1. Government loans

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is unlikely to be relevant to any university museum, except possibly those that have establishing spinoff trading companies.

  1. Arts Council of England

[Update following meeting: late on Tuesday 24 March, ACE emailed award recipients and posted details of support packages on its website. Funding for NPOs will be rolled over for a year and the next investment round deferred].

  1. DCMS

The DCMS team emphasises that communication from us is really important to them, both regarding challenges and ‘good news’. ‘If there is any work that museums can highlight, we will make the case that museums are still doing great things… Please pass on news’. The team email is: covid19-mcp@culture.gov.uk

Nicholas Thomas
Co-Chair
University Museums Group

March 23, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 23 March 2020

The great majority of UK university museums closed to the public last Tuesday, or otherwise last week – a step that most of us never imaged taking. We’re very much aware that this time has been enormously difficult from a professional angle for colleagues across the sector, as well as more personally, as some are going into self-isolation and others are deeply concerned about friends and family members who may be vulnerable or unwell.

A routine UMG committee meeting was scheduled for Thursday 19 March. With the support of Julia Cunningham, Nicola’s PA, we ran a dial-in meeting involving, in addition to ourselves, Janneke Geene (Treasurer; MMU), Jo McPhee (Secretary; Cambridge), Esme Ward (Manchester), Xa Sturgis (Oxford), Tannis Davidson (UCL), Harriet Warburton (Oxford), Carol Shiels (St George’s, London), Mungo Campbell (Glasgow) and Kat Nilsson (UCL) participated.

We set aside the standing agenda and shared notes regarding the COVID-19 emergency and its impact on our institutions. We noted among areas of particular concern for University museums:

  • As universities enforce estate closures, it may be challenging to maintain access to buildings and collections. While some universities readily recognize that laboratories with live animals require special arrangements, we confront what is at many institutions a longstanding issue, that museums are not quite on the radar of the university leadership or those responsible for estate management. Yet we do require access to sustain environmental monitoring, especially as we are entering the season in which pests are a greater threat; the usual seasonal threat may be exacerbated as spaces are darker, less occupied and less visited.
  • We are similarly concerned by threats to the security of buildings and collections. It is critical that security staffing and monitoring is maintained. The recent theft from Christ Church, Oxford, was noted. Some criminals may seek to take advantage of current circumstances.
  • The financial impact of closure will be considerable, particularly for those institutions which charge for special exhibition entry and/or generate critical revenue from retail, catering and venue hire.
  • We are mindful of the duty of care to staff, including those on temporary or flexible contracts. In principle, institutions seek to safeguard salaries; in practice, what is possible will depend on institutional policies (at the university level) and the capacity and willingness of institutions to fund positions (and whether they are eligible to draw on government support announced.
  • We need to think creatively about how to design work packages for those who will be working from home, and around scope for redeploying staff, such as visitor services staff, who cannot undertake their normal work during closure (but may be able to support our online engagement; or contribute to documentation projects).
  • We need to continue supporting and engaging our volunteers during the period of closure to the public.
  • We need to do whatever we can in support of the wellbeing of our staff – through informal contacts such as online coffee mornings or quick catch-ups by phone.
  • Where university museums are closely engaged in specific teaching programmes, consideration will need to be given to supporting students, in the absence of scope for hands-on, artefact-based work, which has become a particularly strength of the work of many institutions in recent years.
  • Given, similarly, the centrality of research support and impact in our advocacy, we will need to assess the consequences of the cancellation or postponement of exhibitions and programmes that are important to REF impact cases. It is as yet unclear whether any rescheduling of the REF census date or assessment process may be considered.
  • Across institutions, temporary exhibitions have or will be cancelled or rescheduled. In many cases significant funds and time have been invested in their preparation. In many instances there will be complex knock-on consequences (e.g. in the case of multi-venue touring exhibitions: one postponement may impact the schedules of multiple institutions). Similarly, many museums have loans out that were due to be couriered back to our museums in coming months. In some instances, extensions will need to be sought for time-limited indemnity arrangements.
  • Many museums have stated that they aim to remain ‘open’ online. Redeployed staff may be able to contribute to an enhanced digital presence. Institutions with larger teams are better placed to adapt and enhance their profile.
  • As with the broader emergency, we have little sense at present of the likely duration of closures. In due course, institutions will need to engage in longer-term planning, taking into consideration the impact of lost revenue.

In this gravely challenging context, the University Museums Group should support members as fully as our capacity permits.

  • We will support the sector through responsive communication, via the JISC list, the website and social media. Members should not hesitate to put out a call if they are in the need of guidance and support.
  • We will seek clarification from funders regarding the suspension of award requirements (along the lines ACE has already announced, for National Portfolio Organisations), and parallel mechanisms such as no-cost extensions for project grants. (E.g. the Director of the Pilgrim Trust has recently written to grant recipients indicating that they are receptive to requests to adapt project plans and timescales). Any member may write to the Secretary and Co-Chairs to suggest that we seek similar assurances from any agencies that have not already announced them.
  • The Co-Chairs have already communicated with Research England regarding HEMG funding, and received a holding reply.
  • Our support and communication will aim to be relevant to member institutions of all kinds, on different scales and with different vulnerabilities.
  • We will sustain engagement and communication with key organisations and stakeholders including NMDC, the MA, ACE and UUK.
  • As the emergency passes, we will support university museums seeking to contribute pro-actively, in re-establishing and reinvigorating research, the student experience and civic engagement, for example through support for smaller cultural organisations in our communities.
  • We will support the advocacy of museums within their universities.

The UMG Committee will meet again, virtually, in approximately a month and will provide a further update at that time. In the interim, we will circulate notes from sector meetings we have been invited to; members should feel free to use the JISC list to circulate questions among peers, or email the Secretary and Co-Chairs with questions that may be more focussed or confidential. We may not have answers ourselves but will aim to liaise with whichever colleagues may be best placed to provide advice, in order to share effective responses across the membership and our sector.

Nicholas Thomas and Nicola Kalinksy
Co-Chairs
University Museums Group

July 29, 2019

Executive Committee vacancies

There are three openings on the UMG Executive Committee for new members, and in addition we are looking to fill the role of Treasurer. This is an exciting time for UMG, as following on from last year’s consultation we are relaunching the organisation, seeking to involve the widest possible range of colleagues and institutions, and working towards an association that supports the sector in a responsive, effective and representative way. We are looking for new members who will help us drive this forward.

The Executive Committee welcomes expressions of interest from members interested in joining the committee.

Further information, including details of the application process, are available here.

In the event of more candidates being nominated than positions, an election will be held by ballot at the AGM.

Expressions of interest must be received by Friday 30 August 2019 in order to circulate the statements with the AGM papers. Please send to UMG Secretary Jo McPhee.

July 24, 2019

The Future of University Museums Workshop Day

Tuesday 17 September
University College London
10.45am – 5pm
FREE

This is a time of challenge and uncertainty, for both universities and museums. In an already tough environment, wide-ranging cuts may follow a possible no-deal Brexit. It is also unclear whether reduced university income, following the cuts in tuition fees recommended in the Augar Report, would be compensated for by central government. If universities respond by narrowing their definitions of core purposes, our innovative collections-based teaching and research, and our vibrant and engaging public programmes may be threatened.  The Future of University Museums is an opportunity to hear from senior representatives as they offer their perspectives on current issues and invite discussion and comment.   Confirmed speakers include Michael Thompson, Universities UK, Jane Robinson, Dean of Engagement and Place, Newcastle University and Ed Davison, Head of Office, Office for Students. Breakout sessions  in the afternoon will give all participants a chance to speak to three core themes: research impact, teaching and museums, and museums and civic engagement, and to share their experiences with colleagues across the sector.

Please confirm your attendance with Tannis Davidson, by 6 September 2019.

March 7, 2019

Consultancy on University Museums Group Governance

The University Museums Group (UMG) are seeking to appoint a consultant to review its current role and to make recommendations on its future governance, organisational structure, objectives and financial sustainability.

This will enable UMG to work to support the needs of member institutions more effectively, over a challenging period.

The consultant will review and make recommendations concerning the governance of UMG. The Committee expect the recommendations to include revisions to UMG’s constitution, membership arrangements, accounting and auditing.

Specifically the consultant will:

  • Review UMG’s current constitution and its organisational status with a
    view to recommending a revised model, or appropriate options, to the UMG committee. This may include a comparator review of other sector support organisations and an assessment of the potential for UMG to seek
    charitable status.
  • Review UMG’s financial structure, including the role and responsibilities of the Treasurer; its accounting and auditing arrangements, and its
    membership fees. This may include a review of other sector support
    organisations (such as AIM, SSNs, GEM etc.).

The consultant should prepare

  • A draft, revised constitution
  • Specific guidance regarding appropriate banking, accounting and auditing
    arrangements
  • Guidance regarding the costs and potential benefits of securing charitable
    status

Tenders should be submitted by 8 April 2019. These should consist of a proposal outlining how the work would be approached, of no more than 2 pages, a summary CV, and a fee proposal.

For full details of the consultancy and tendering process please download the UMG Governance Consultancy Brief.

June 21, 2018

Last chance to book for Conference 2018

Foreign exchange? University museums and international engagement

University of Cambridge, 3 July 2018

University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge

 

Booking is now closed.

 

University museum collections originate from many countries. Over decades and in some cases centuries, they were created and curated through scientific fieldwork and collecting that ranged worldwide. In the present, those interested in studying collections and in borrowing art works and specimens for analysis and exhibition represent, like our students, many nations. International engagement is anything but foreign to us.

 

At the University Museums Group’s 2016 conference, Matt Hancock, now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, affirmed that museums and universities are ‘absolutely central to our post-Brexit future, open and engaged with the whole world, progressive and positive in shaping how Britain sees herself and is seen the world over.’ Universities similarly express ambitions to contribute globally. In 2018, academic and cultural collaboration seems more urgent than ever, yet also more difficult, as threats to global peace and security multiply.

 

The University Museums Group’s 2018 conference will explore how university museums can contribute to, and even lead, universities’ efforts to engage internationally. It will consider how smaller as well as larger museums can participate in, and benefit from, international programmes. Panels will offer presentations from sponsoring bodies and case studies from museum staff, ranging over practical experience and future opportunities. We encourage open discussion of challenges and constraints, while celebrating the accomplishments and the potential of university museums to make a positive difference through international work.

Full conference programme:

09.45 – 10.45 Registration with refreshments

09.45 for tour participants

10.15 for all others

10.00 – 10.30

 

Tour of Museum of Zoology (pre booked only)

Led by: Jack Ashby, Manager, Museum of Zoology

10.45 Conference opens

Welcome from Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Cambridge

11.00

Keynote:

Diane Lees CBE, Director-General, Imperial War Museum

Introduced by: Nicola Kalinsky, Director, Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Co-Chair, University Museums Group

11.40 Panel discussion: The funding environment

Panellists:

·         Rachael Browning, Head of Programmes, Art Fund

·         Dana Andrew, Executive Director, ICOM UK

·         Dr Laura Carletti, European and International Manager, Research Operations Office, University of Cambridge

·         Professor Rodney Harrison, AHRC Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellow, UCL

Chair: Ghislaine Wood, Deputy Director, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia

12.55 Welcome to the Museum of Zoology

Professor Paul Brakefield, Director, Museum of Zoology
1.00 – 1.45 Lunch
1.30 – 2.00 Tour of Museum of Zoology (pre booked only)

Led by: Jack Ashby, Manager, Museum of Zoology

 

1.45 – 2.20 University Museums Group AGM
2.20 Keynote:

Professor Wayne Modest, Head of the Research Centre for Material Culture, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

Introduced by: Dr Mark Elliott, Senior Curator for Anthropology, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

3.00 Lightning Case Studies
·         Walking with the Buddha: creating a UK research-led exhibition in TaiwanRachel Barclay, Curator, Oriental Museum

·         Experiments in collaboration: commissioning Indigenous and Adivasi sculpture

Dr Mark Elliott, Senior Curator for Anthropology, Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology

·         University museums and global agendas

Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology, Manchester Museum

·         MicroPasts: Crowd and community fuelled international research

Daniel Pett, Head of IT & Digital, The Fitzwilliam Museum

·         Manchester Museum’s new China Gallery 

Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections, Manchester Museum

·         Science in University Museums – an international initiative

Professor Paul Smith, Director Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Chair: Dr Xa Sturgis, Director Ashmolean Museum

 

4.30 – 5 Break with refreshments
5.00 Keynote:

Kate Bellamy, Director of Museums, Arts Council England

In conversation with Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Co-Chair, University Museums Group

5.40 Attendees walk to Kettle’s Yard
6.00 Reception at Kettle’s Yard
7.00 Close

 

You can download the full programme here UMG Conference Programme 2018 final

April 25, 2018

Call for Papers: conference 2018

Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

University Musuems Group – 2018 conference

Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

Tuesday 3 July 2018

 

The theme of the University Museums Group’s 2018 conference is ‘Foreign exchange: University museums and international engagement’.

 

The organising group welcomes proposals for ‘lightning talks’, for 8 minute presentations, which will be presented in two panel sessions of case studies. Each should outline a particular international project, drawing attention to wider issues arising from its development, realisation and/or legacy. Proposals which draw attention to opportunities, but also frankly acknowledge challenges are welcome.

 

The conference organisers anticipate selecting 5-6 proposals for presentation during the afternoon at the conference in Cambridge. Please be aware that they will seek a representative range of speakers, in terms of disciplines, and smaller and larger museums: we regret that it is unlikely that every good proposal can be included.

 

Deadline for submissions:       Friday 1 June

Please forward abstracts to:   Nicola Kalinsky, n.kalinsky@bham.ac.uk

For more information on the conference, and to book your place, see the Conference 2018 web page.

April 5, 2018

Booking now open for Conference 2018

Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Foreign exchange?  University museums and international engagement

University of Cambridge, 3 July 2018

University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge

 

University museum collections originate from many countries. Over decades and in some cases centuries, they were created and curated through scientific fieldwork and collecting that ranged worldwide. In the present, those interested in studying collections and in borrowing art works and specimens for analysis and exhibition represent, like our students, many nations. International engagement is anything but foreign to us.

 

At the University Museums Group’s 2016 conference, Matt Hancock, now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, affirmed that museums and universities are ‘absolutely central to our post-Brexit future, open and engaged with the whole world, progressive and positive in shaping how Britain sees herself and is seen the world over.’ Universities similarly express ambitions to contribute globally. In 2018, academic and cultural collaboration seems more urgent than ever, yet also more difficult, as threats to global peace and security multiply.

 

The University Museums Group’s 2018 conference will explore how university museums can contribute to, and even lead, universities’ efforts to engage internationally. It will consider how smaller as well as larger museums can participate in, and benefit from, international programmes. Panels will offer presentations from sponsoring bodies and case studies from museum staff, ranging over practical experience and future opportunities. We encourage open discussion of challenges and constraints, while celebrating the accomplishments and the potential of university museums to make a positive difference through international work.

 

The programme will include a reception at Kettle’s Yard and tours of the Museum of Zoology, both newly reopened

Speakers will include

Diane Lees CBE, Director-General, Imperial War Museum

Wayne Modest, Head, Research Centre for Material Culture, Leiden

Kate Bellamy, Director, Museums, Arts Council of England

Download the programme here: UMG Conference 2018 Programme

 

The cost for the day is £40 per delegate.  You can book your place online via the University of Cambridge online booking system.

February 8, 2018

Details announced for UMG Conference 2018

Foreign exchange?  University museums and international engagement

University of Cambridge, 3 July 2018

University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge

 

University museum collections originate from many countries. Over decades and in some cases centuries, they were created and curated through scientific fieldwork and collecting that ranged worldwide. In the present, those interested in studying collections and in borrowing art works and specimens for analysis and exhibition represent, like our students, many nations. International engagement is anything but foreign to us.

 

At the University Museums Group’s 2016 conference, Matt Hancock, now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, affirmed that museums and universities are ‘absolutely central to our post-Brexit future, open and engaged with the whole world, progressive and positive in shaping how Britain sees herself and is seen the world over.’ Universities similarly express ambitions to contribute globally. In 2018, academic and cultural collaboration seems more urgent than ever, yet also more difficult, as threats to global peace and security multiply.

 

The University Museums Group’s 2018 conference will explore how university museums can contribute to, and even lead, universities’ efforts to engage internationally. It will consider how smaller as well as larger museums can participate in, and benefit from, international programmes. Panels will offer presentations from sponsoring bodies and case studies from museum staff, ranging over practical experience and future opportunities. We encourage open discussion of challenges and constraints, while celebrating the accomplishments and the potential of university museums to make a positive difference through international work.

 

The programme will include a reception at Kettle’s Yard and tours of the Museum of Zoology, both newly reopened

 

Speakers will include

Diane Lees CBE, Director-General, Imperial War Museum

Wayne Modest, Head, Research Centre for Material Culture, Leiden

Kate Bellamy, Director, Museums, Arts Council of England

4 million public visitors, 3500 public events, 200 exhibitions in 2011-12

 

Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge

Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge