Open letter warns that neglecting museums will ‘risk losing what makes us special’

Article: David Styles | Image: © Wandrille de Préville/Wiki

Co-signed by National Museum Directors’ Council, Museums Association and Art Fund, an open letter published in The Times newspaper has called on political parties to deliver on promises in order to save the arts and cultural sector from an ensuing “quiet crisis”.

Self-described as “custodians and advocates of the UK’s museums” the trio of industry bodies say they have been forced to speak out due to feeling keenly “the responsibility we have to protect the things that give our nations their unique character”. The sector, they claim, has reached breaking point.

Citing “swingeing cuts in local and central government funding” throughout a decade of austerity in the UK, the letter also points to disasters in recent times at the likes of National Museum of Brazil, Notre-Dame and Glasgow School of Art as “terrible reminders of why we must invest to protect treasured collections”.

Aside from such high-profiles issues, a “quiet crisis” is said to be looming in British towns and cities. “Leaking roofs and antiquated air-handling systems threaten the stability and preservation of collections,” the letter states. Digitisation projects, too, are not being implemented as they should be, according to the three organisations.

It is now time, they assert, for all political parties to recognise the crisis and deliver on their promises.

With the appropriate investment, the letter concludes, the nation’s museums will “continue to represent the UK’s cultural influence to the world; attract tourists to cities and regions; and inspire our children to learn. If the neglect continues, we risk losing what makes us special”.

The communique is signed by Sir Ian Blatchford, chair of National Museum Directors’ Council and director & CEO of Science Museum Group; Maggie Appleton, chair of Museums Association and CEO of Royal Air Force Museum; and Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund.