A really important statement has been put out by the Museums Association today, which as the governing body for the whole UK means they will be taking this line with government. Museums Galleries Scotland work closely with the MA and I think we can assume this is the national position.
The good news is that they get it with regard to independent museums. The whole statement is worth a read, but this is the core section:
All museums in the UK are currently closed, leading to a huge deficit in budgets across all types of museum. The hardest hit are those museums that raise the largest proportion of their income from earned income, such as ticket sales, cafes, shops etc, although all museums are affected to some degree. For many museums, the lockdown has come at the worst possible time – during peak spring and summer months when they generate the vast majority of their income and attract the largest proportion of visitors from the UK and overseas. The MA is concerned that many of these organisations will not survive if the lockdown continues for many months. There is therefore a real and urgent need for museums to reopen and begin serving their communities and trading again. We believe that this is possible with due consideration for public health (see Operational Issues below). However, there are also several issues that make reopening a complex financial decision.The coronavirus lockdown has come at the worst possible time for many museums by wiping out their ability to trade during the key spring and summer months. It is possible that museums will not be able to reopen until well into the summer season, and possibly not until the autumn.The loss of peak trading income, combined with the likelihood that visitation will be substantially reduced immediately following reopening, risks creating a second financial crisis for museums upon reopening. Many organisations will have used their reserves and will be incapable of paying staff and costs for the duration of the low season until peak trading begins again in spring 2021. This could result in another wave of job losses and potentially further insolvencies across the sector. The MA believes that governments across the UK should commit to continue to support museums across the UK beyond the formal end of the lockdown.
There is also discussion about practicalities of re-opening and various other considerations.
If we could offer a piece of advice – have a look at your governance and paperwork and check it is fit for purpose, which means will it be good enough to get you the support you need? This statement by the Museums Association is so clearly rooting for independent museums that it will underline and may even accelerate financial support, and if you think you will need it then it would be worth making sure all your governance ducks are lined up. Is your board working effectively? Are you completely on top of your finances? Had you been planning to up grade to charitable status? All of these things can be done under lockdown.
If you need help with the spring-cleaning of your governance, get in touch with us. We can help, or direct you elsewhere. There is a lot of help out there and the bodies which support the Third Sector are always delighted to help organisations strengthen their core.
Also new today:Gem, the largest organisation for heritage learning, is offering free membership for 1 year for freelance educators including a supplier listing. If your museum or heritage organisation has someone you contract in to help deliver your learning – however occasional, please forward this to them. GEM has great resources and as all museums and heritage projects will be needing to change how they do their learning, then it will be worthwhile being able to access online training and ideas. The offer is on their membership page.https://gem.org.uk/join-gem/
Apologies – forgot to add this to last bulletinThe Heritage Trust Network is offering mentoring during these trying times. It is open to members, so check your latest newsletter if you are. If you aren’t, and are a historic building, then consider it! They are a lively network and increasingly busy in Scotland. http://www.heritagetrustnetwork.org.uk/
That’ll do for now – and everyone else is saying it as it is officially Star Wars day so I will too: May the Fourth be with you!
All the best