MPs listen to Art Fund

  • 12 January 2007

David Barrie has told a committee of MPs that the Government needs to find a more creative way of increasing the spending power of museums.

He went on to tell the MPs – who invited The Art Fund to give evidence to their inquiry, ‘Caring for Our Collections’ – that if money cannot come from public funds, then steps must be taken to encourage private philanthropy, through better tax incentives.

While there are signs of improvement, for example with a £3m commitment on the part of the Heritage Lottery Fund to encourage acquisitions within museums, David Barrie argued that the corrosive effects of years of inadequate funding would require more than stop-gap measures.

David Barrie revisited an earlier campaign to introduce a tax incentive to encourage lifetime giving to our public collections. The proposal was rejected by the Treasury in 2006, but the need for such a solution has not gone away. More fundamentally, we should be seeking to create a culture of giving. Important lessons can be learnt from both France and the US.

When asked whether a call for more active collecting was justified considering that a huge percentage of museum’s collections remain in storage, David Barrie defended the reasoning behind this. He argued that many pieces are used primarily for research rather than display, while others are simply too fragile to be made accessible at all times.

He stressed the need for a public debate about our reserve collections and argued that this in no way diminished the need for an active and dynamic collections policy on the part of museums.

This inquiry follows on from an earlier inquiry, ‘Protecting and Preserving our Heritage.’ Such was the response to this examination, particularly in relation to the issue of collections, that the committee launched a separate inquiry. We are delighted that the MPs have taken note of the strength of support for collections and await their report with interest.