May 26, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 26 May 2020

We attach the report, ‘Assessing the Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on University Museums‘, resulting from the survey undertaken by the UMG committee at the end of April. We feel this report is a clear and powerful document, capturing both the immediate situation during the lock down period and flagging up key concerns for University Museums in the months and years ahead – some of these are common to the wider museum sector, but others relate specifically to our context within Higher Education. There are also strong messages about the opportunities present in recovery for university museums.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed to this exercise and particular thanks to Helen Mark, Data Manager for the Manchester Museum Partnership, University of Manchester, who prepared the report. The report will be posted on the UMG website and shared with our networks in ACE and DCMS. The next UMG committee meeting will consider how we continue to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on university museums and further advocacy steps.

Other news:

At you are likely to be aware, the government has established five COVID-19 ‘roadmap taskforces’ to provide sector-specific guidance towards reopening, including one convened by DCMS dedicated to Recreation and Leisure. The UMG Co-Chairs have joined a Museums and Galleries subgroup convened by Caroline Dinenage (Minister of State for Digital and Culture) tasked with ‘Identifying and resolving practical, sector-specific guidance-related issues’ and enabling communication and dissemination. However, as previously noted, NMDC had already moved to establish a remobilisation working group, and it is not expected that the Minister’s group will duplicate that work. On Friday, Kathryn Simpson (Acting Head of Strategy,

NMDC) circulated a statement, ‘An NMDC-led cross-sectoral working group is developing good practice guidance on museum reopening with DCMS’ support.

The approach is guided by the safety of visitors and staff, and financial sustainability. The guidance acknowledges the complexity of the sector, where each museum will be working within a unique set of circumstances and responding to local contexts. We hope the guidance will be ready to share in early June.’

It was clear from the discussions that museums are expected to reopen in a phased way, most likely from early to mid-July through to September or October.

We also joined the ACE-led Collections at Risk sector meeting on 21 May, which included further reports from ACE and the Heritage Fund regarding the take up of emergency funds. It has been noted that this has been low relative to other parts of the cultural sector, underscoring the sense that for museums and university museums, critical challenges may lie ahead – in the autumn and beyond.

Nicholas Thomas / Nicola Kalinsky
Co-Chairs
University Museums Group