Art Fund policy: Museum cuts and closures

What can the Art Fund do to safeguard local museum services?

The Art Fund is very concerned that museums across the UK are facing serious financial and structural difficulties – and in some cases, total closure – because of local authority funding cuts. Despite the Chancellor’s recent recognition of the economic as well as wider benefits of the arts, and despite museums’ important role in creating a vibrant cultural life for local communities, museums and galleries are not a protected statutory service, and are therefore often first in the firing line when councils need to make savings.

Collections held in trust by national and local governments belong to the public, and museums play a vital role in maintaining these collections and making them available to us all. We nonetheless acknowledge that in the face of continued funding cuts it is unrealistic to expect all museums to survive unscathed and unchanged. We are sympathetic to the difficult decisions many local authorities will need to make in the coming months, and open to a range of solutions, from museums moving to independent trust status, to merged museum services and shared back-office resources.

Although the Art Fund cannot campaign to save every museum faced with damaging cuts or closure, we will step in where possible if we believe the care of a collection is under threat, or opportunities for the public to enjoy access to a collection will be severely restricted. When we act, this will be following consultation with our museum sector colleagues, and in a manner most appropriate to the situation – our response may be as part of a public consultation, through local or national press, and/or campaigning privately and behind-the-scenes.

I am concerned about funding cuts to my local museum, what can I do?

We would encourage anyone concerned about local museum cuts and closures to consider the following actions:

  • Get in touch with our head of programmes, Sarah Philp, at sphilp@artfund.org. We may be able to offer more information, advice or assistance.
  • If your museum has a friends or volunteers group, you can get in touch with them to learn more about their plans and see how you might be able to help. There may already be a local campaign you could get involved with.
  • If there is a public consultation taking place, you can have your say by taking part. Find out more.
  • If the museum is owned and run by a local authority, you could write to the leader of the council to voice your concerns.
  • Contact your local MP by letter or email - or you could also go along to one of their regular local constituency surgeries. Find out more.