Policy & research

Museum sector bodies’ joint response to party manifestos

Craven Museum, Art Fund Museum of the Year Finalist, 2024

Ahead of the general election, Art Fund, the Museums Association (MA), the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) and the National Museum Directors' Council (NMDC) have issued a joint response to the party manifestos. Read our response below.

As museum sector bodies we are pleased to see that all major party manifestos include a commitment to our sector. Museums form an essential part of our creative economy, are loved and trusted by the public, and are integral to our cultural, educational and social infrastructure. According to research by Art Fund and NMDC, 89% of UK adults think museums are important to UK culture and three quarters (76%) of UK adults think having a local museum adds value to their area. The same percentage think museums should receive at least half of their funding from government.

However, museums, particularly local museums, are facing serious challenges. We urge an incoming administration to provide strategic public investment to the museum sector for core and maintenance costs.

We set out below our response to the major parties’ manifesto policies and how museums can deliver outcomes for economic growth, education and communities.

Economic growth

Museums attract tourists and drive economic activity, contributing to the UK’s £126bn creative industries. We are pleased to see that the contribution of arts and culture to the UK economy is recognised in the Liberal Democrat and Green Party manifestos. The VAT Refund Scheme for museums and galleries offering free admission has been successful, and we welcome the Green Party’s commitment to end VAT on cultural activities. We also welcome the Conservative Party commitments to ensure creative sector tax incentives remain competitive, alongside the promotion of philanthropy and a review of Gift Aid.

An urgent reassessment of local authority funding for museums alongside further tax breaks and philanthropy promotion would enable more museums across the UK to move to a growth model and contribute to further increasing direct and indirect economic activity.


We are pleased to see the Labour Party manifesto commitments to supporting children to study a creative or vocational subject until they are 16 and the Liberal Democrats commitment to arts subjects being included in the English Baccalaureate. Cultural education helps children build cultural confidence, develop creative capacity and reach their full potential, providing them with skills for life as well as skills for work.

Learning and engagement is central to the role of museums. Many museums have strong relationships with primary and secondary schools, working closely with the education sector to develop engaging content and vital resources for both on and off-site. Museums – especially local museums – play a crucial role to facilitate this. Any reviews of curriculum and assessment should include commitments for every schoolchild to experience a visit or engagement with a museum or gallery every year as a minimum.


The major parties' manifestos have recognised the vital role museums play within their communities – from Conservative commitments to continuing support for museums, to Green Party commitments to keep local museums and art galleries open and thriving.

Party commitments to widen devolution present an opportunity to expand local museums’ role in delivering transformational experiences for and with their communities. Everyone should have the right to engage with and participate in museums near to where they live.

Local museums deliver transformational and engaging experiences working with their communities and need investment and support from their local authorities to do that. This means a fair, long-term funding settlement for local government to enable local authorities to support and invest in their museums.

Access to collections

We are pleased that the Labour Party’s manifesto recognises the value of loans between museums. The sharing of objects, art and artefacts enables museums to engage with diverse audiences, increase visitor numbers and drive regional tourism. Strong partnerships between national and non-national museums are vital to support the two-way exchange of expertise and to build capacity to create a flourishing and resilient sector. 

We support the Liberal Democrat commitment to maintain free access to national museums and galleries. Free entry to national museums has been a major cultural policy success which delivers a huge range of cultural, learning and economic benefits.

The UK’s publicly owned collections must be protected, sustained, promoted and freely accessible for all.

Museum sector bodies look forward to working with a new administration and all elected members to further shape ambitions and activities. Whichever party is elected on the 4 July the new administration needs to ensure that their politicians and policymakers working across education, communities, industrial strategy and culture listen to the UK public and support the museums they love.

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