Concern grows museums could be caught in cost-of-living squeeze

The Museums Association has called for better pay and more strategic investment to avoid a further squeeze to both institutions and visitors.

Concern in the museums sector has been raised at the effect of the cost of living crisis and increasing inflation on museums and museum staff across the UK.

The Museums Association (MA), a membership organisation for museum, gallery and heritage professionals, is now calling for better pay and strategic investment to avoid severe problems for institutional and individual members and for the wider sector.

It has called for museums and funding bodies to work together to ensure that “substantial pay offers are made to the museum workforce,” to keep pace with cost of living pressures, and bring pay inline with similar roles in other sectors.

It warns that double digit inflation combined with pay increases below the rate of inflation mean that museum workers are seeing their real terms incomes decreasing at the fastest rate for decades.

It cites its 2017 survey which suggests that museum workers are paid less compared to equivalent roles elsewhere in the economy, and suggests workers in the sector will struggle to meet rapidly rising energy and food costs in coming months.
Rising energy costs will also cause financial pressure for the sector as organisations keep institutions warm in often energy-hungry heritage buildings, it said.

The MA has called on governments, arms-length bodies and local authorities to invest strategically in the museum sector, and for specific support for museums to ensure that they are able to act as warm spaces for communities during the winter, as museums are also likely to be used – formally or informally – as warm spaces during the winter by people unable to warm their own homes.

It also warns that visitors may be less likely to visit institutions which are not free to enter. ALVA Public Sentiment research shows that the cost of living has now overtaken Covid as the principal reason to not visit an attraction.

The MA said it is in the process of creating a range of research and campaigns in support of wellbeing, better pay and investment in the sector over the coming months.