2016: A Museums + Heritage Advisor Year in Review

By Adrian Murphy

2016 will probably go down as the year of Brexit and Donald Trump being elected as the next president of the United States. However, looking through the archives there have been plenty of memorable happenings throughout the sector including new openings, funding announcements, sector reports and analysis. Here is M+H Advisor’s 2016 Year in Review


The New Year opened with some good news from the Museum of London as its plans to turn the vast Smithfield Market into its new home by 2020 were given the go-ahead and it subsequently launched an international design competition to realise its vison. The Flying Scotsman took to the railways following a £4.2m decade-long restoration and Museum Selfie Day saw cultural organisations from around the world promote the all the good things about museums in 30,000 tweets.

Later in the month ACE chair Sir Peter Bazalgette announced his resignation when his four-year term ends in January 2017 and Historic England ensured that Hepworth and Gormley sculptures were among 41 listed.

In features we focused on the conservation of Coventry Cathedral’s Christ in Glory tapestry, one of the largest of its kinds in the world, and a thought-provoking exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery entitled Death is it Your Right to Choose.

Flying Scotsman in the workshop at Riley & Son (E), Bury by Peter Byrne, PA


In February ACE proposed a big shake-up in the way it funds museums by suggesting integrated funding for arts, museums and libraries and asks practitioners to send thier views via a dedicated website.

Jimi Hendrix flat opens as a new combined visitor attraction Handel and Hendrix and we run a Q&A with Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director on how the organisation bridges the gap between galleries and artists as well as initiates funding platforms and helps save artwork for the nation. Towards the end of the month the first Museums and Wellbeing week is launched, organised by the National Alliance for Museums, Health & Wellbeing. Its aim is to showcase the depth of health and wellbeing activities organised by museums.

The first In Focus of the year is on Professional Development in the Cultural Sector and brings together six case studies that demonstarte how a trained and skilled workforce is integral to the sector.

In features we travel back in time with Fossil Hunters at the National Museum of scotland – an exhibition that explains for the first time how  animals came to walk on land. We also find out how the Yorkshire Sculpture Park team battled the elements to put on a show by American artist KAWS.

Installation of KAWS sculpture at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2016. Courtesy the artist and YSP. Photo © Jonty Wilde


The big news in March was the Government White Paper on culture, the first in 51 years, and we bring reaction from sector leaders on the report’s aims.  The Science Museum opens its new Dana Research Centre and Library and the proposed National Brunel Museum at ss Great Britain announces it is fully funded and ready to start building work.

In Glasgow the Burrell collection announce architects for a huge £60m redevelopment. In features we cover the new museum at the Dublin GPO to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Risings and the Museum of Brands relocating and expanding into new premises.

We also run an opinion piece by Liz Johnson, ACE Relationship Manager, Museums on The power of partnerships in the growth and survival of museums.

Our In Focus for March is on Digitising Collections with case studies from the British Museum, Bodliean Library, Cynefin and Tyne & Wear Archives. It explains how the internet and new technologies are making it possible to put huge collections online that can be seen by people around the world.

The Cynefin project used a GigaPan camera and curved magnetic wall to capture the larger tithe maps


In April the harsh reality of government cuts to councils is spelled out in an ACE report that shows local authority investment in culture is down by £236m since 2010.

Shakespeare 400 sees museums, galleries and libraries celebrate four centuries of Shakespeare and we discover how Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums is sharing its knowledge with museums and galleries across the world.

POLIN: Museum of the History of Polish Jews wins European Museum of the Year and we mark the death of Zaha Hadid by showcasing her museum creations.

The Touring Exhibition Group publishes a report analysing touring exhibition practice in the UK and the Museums Association launches a new code of ethics for museums.

April’s In Focus is on Audience Development – Putting visitors at the heart of the museum through collaborations, wayfinding, branding and visitor interpretation.

POLIN: Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, wins European Museum of the Year


In May the Museums + Heritage Show brought together museums professionals and providers under one roof with sector announcements and product launches including the new Collidercase, which pushes the boundaries of display case technology.

The Museums + Heritage Awards sees 14 categories being announced including Best of the Best won by Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a new award for volunteers and Carole Souter CBE awarded Outstanding Contribution by an Individual.

Kids in Museums launches its Hurdles to Participation report and ACE pledges new funding of £2.4m for small museums.

This month’s In Focus is on Exhibition Design and explores how museums and suppliers are finding innovative ways to bring collections and audiences together. In our blogs we link up with Mia Ridge, Chair Museums Computer Group & Digital Curator British Library who asks the question How can museums reduce the digital hangover?


In June we head up to Edinburgh for the AIM conference at the Royal College of Surgeons where HLF announced £10m investment to its Skills for the Future programme, AIM announce a new chairman and launch a £1m History Makers fund.

On the second day of the conference the Referendum results are in and. It’s. A … Brexit. To the dismay of possibly all attendees the result sends shockwaves through the cultural sector.

There was lots more going on in June prior to Brexit including the opening of Tate Modern’s new £260m Switch House. M+H Advisor paid a visit and was impressed with the wide-open spaces as you can see from our review. There was also exciting news from the Museum of London, which unveiled its new designs for Smithfield Market that it will call home from 2020.

The Art Fund announced it has raised £300,000 through its crowdfunding platform Art Happens and there was a big reveal at the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham, which reopened after a £3m redevelopment and Bristol Old Vic, the coutry’s oldest theatre, sets out its ambitious plans for redevelopment.

Switch House at Tate Modern


July was a landmark month for the Mary Rose Museum as it revealed the Tudor ship following restrictive conservation for the first time since it was brought up from the solent in the 1980s. The museum has also created new interpretation that brings Henry VIII’s vessal and its stories to life.

A new culture secretary in Karen Bradley is announced and ACE confirms that they will be integrating funding for arts, museums and libraries from 2018. The V&A is crowned Art Fund Museum of the Year and the Art Fund helps save Elizabeth I portrait with a HLF grant. The HLF also reveal a new £8m Resilient Heritage Fund  to improve how organisations manage heritage in the long-term.

New temporary visitor attraction The Lost Palace launches and the National Museum of Scotland opens ten new galleries.

Features this month include a report on fundraising and sponsorship in the cultural sector and how it is as an essential source of income and the In Focus feature is on Collections – making museum treasures more accessible and better cared for.

Victoria and Albert Museum staff with artist Yinka Shonibare (third from right) © Rankin


In Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare’s New Place opens its doors giving more insight into the bard and his families’ life and in Cheshire Norton Priory reopens with a vastly improved visitor experience and interpretation.

HLF launches its Heritage Endowments Programme and ACE’s announces its final Museum Resilience Fund and we look at what that means with two case studies. We also feature a blog from ACE’s chief executive Darren Henley who reflects on 70th anniversary of the body.

The Hepworth Wakefield announces winning design for £2.2m riverside gallery garden and in features we investigate the groundbreaking work by scientist in Manchester through MOSI’s exhibition Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond.

A bronze tree taking centre stage in the Heart of the Home at Shakespeare's New Place


There was a major opening across the Atlantic with the inauguration of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Sir Nicholas Serota named new chairman of ACE and an important report is published by AIM on the question of should museums charge admission fees?

HLF launch Kick the Dust to encourage more youth engagement in heritage and also team up with ACE to fund a new pilot programme into crowdfunding in the cultural sector.

Fun Palaces proves to be a beacon of inclusion once again as cultural events are organised by communities up and down the country and an international design competition launched to create new UK holocaust memorial in Westminster.

We also publish two In Focus features on Multimedia Guides and Apps, which explores the staggering rise of the technology in our museums over the past five years, and Interpreting the outdoors, which showcases the fantastic outdoor attractions across the country and how they are managed.

New National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC


One of the highlights of October was Turner Contemporary publishing a pioneering social value research into its impact on the community with Cantebury Christchurch University. It revealed taht art gallleries such as theirs can have tremendous benefits on the surrounding business and population.

York Art Gallery wins Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum of the Year. The Museum of English Rural Life reopens following redevelopment and a new Heath Robinson Museum opens.

ACE announces its budget for 2018-22 that will increase funding outside of London and we interview Luiz Alberto Oliveira, curator of Brazil’s Museum of Tomorrow ahead of his talk at the Museums Association conference.

This month also sees us make the first in a series of in house videos. Advisor on Film begins with the story of the Almonry Museum in Evesham showcasing its new community photo album project to a dementia cafe in the town, which has been partly funded by the Museums + Heritage Show prize fund.

One of the summer sensations in museums and elsewhere was Pokémon Go and Calvium’s director writes a blog on the phenomenon – The future of Augmented Reality and what it means for Heritage.

In features Christine Riding, curator of Queens House in Greenwich gives a behind-the-scenes look at its recent refurbishment and this month’s In Focus is on Ticketing and CRM systems.



The new Design Museum opens in Kensington and Museums + Heritage Advisor reviewed the new venue and made a video that included interviews with founder, Sir Terence Conran, Director Deyan Sudjic, Chief Curator Justin McGuirk and Director of Learning and Research Helen Charman.

We also reported on how a campaign led by AIM saw the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement extend tax relief for museums and galleries to include permanent exhibitions.

For the second year running M+H Advisor teamed up with Kids in Museums’ Takeover Day and saw the website filled with kids’ reports from the hugely successful event.

A new report by RSA and HLF calls for heritage to play bigger role in local strategic thinking and Advisor on Film travels to Croome to discover how the National Trust team there are restoring and redefining Capabilty Brown’s landscape and home.


The month begins with a big announcment from DCMS that the Terracotta Warriors will visit World Museum Liverpool in 2018 and ACE launches its Diversity Data report 

The Royal Society of Arts funds 15 museums to promote their Local Heroes in science and ten museums come together for a historic six-month Hadrian’s Wall Roman cavalry exhibition in 2017.

A VocalEyes survey reveals 27% of museum websites provide no access information for disabled visitors and our In Focus report for December is on Income Generation and how it can actually improve the visitor experience through its development.

We look forward to bringing you more quality news, features and analysis in 2017!

The Black Carts stretch of Hadrian's Wall, Walwick