May 29, 2020

Update from Co-Chairs, 29 May 2020

This week Nicola joined an ACE museum organisations’ meeting on Wednesday, and we both attended the Minister’s museums and galleries reopening task force yesterday. A few headlines:

  1. Both ACE and the Heritage Fund are looking beyond the current ’emergency’ programmes to a ‘stabilisation’ phase of funding, and in the case of ACE a third ‘reset’ phase. In the case of ACE, details will be published as part of the previously announced, but delayed delivery plan.
    DCMS are considering medium to longer term support for the sector, but will need to negotiate any offer with Treasury – we do not expect any announcement in the immediate future.
  2. Art Fund and ICOM have published surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on museums (in the UK and internationally, respectively).
  3. There has been ongoing discussion about what might be done differently following reopening. It is suggested that museums could or should work ‘hyper-locally’, in support particularly of their most immediate communities; while strengthening their digital offer. Both Heritage Fund and ACE are concerned that online offerings have been of mixed quality. The ArtFund perspective is that museums should have a go, and learn from mistakes.
  4. The call with the minister was focussed on the draft NMDC ‘Good practice guidelines for reopening museums.’ This is a four-page document with a lengthy appendix on practical steps; it places considerable emphasis on local context and museum-specific issues. The approach is to flag areas such as staff safety and wellbeing; public safety; the adaptation of buildings; financial viability; visitor expectations and transport systems, rather than set out detailed prescriptions. It is undergoing further revision and will be published by 13 June, hence three weeks ahead of the earliest legal reopening date, subject to confirmation, of 4 July. Some institutions we are aware of are anticipating early August reopening.
  5. The UMG committee meets on 4 June; the next update will follow that meeting.

Nicholas Thomas / Nicola Kalinsky
Co-Chairs
University Museums Group