When I started this blog almost a year ago, it was because I wanted to push myself. I was working in a national museum in a junior role where I learnt a lot about the practicalities of collections management, but didn’t feel stretched, and didn’t feel like I was flexing all the muscles I developed during my Museum Studies MA. I was facing a lot of challenges and frustrations when it came to pursuing the next stage of my career, and was keenly aware of the parallel challenges and frustrations facing the museum sector. I had a lot of ideas and didn’t feel like I had an outlet for them, so I started Acid Free.
When I started Acid Free I wrote a round up of emerging trends I was noticing in museum practice and displays, and I intended to follow it up regularly, but have been slow to do so. After fretting that I had left it too late and many of my ’emerging’ trends related to exhibitions that have been and gone, I sat down to write about some thoughts on museums goings on I’ve been collecting over the summer. I realised that many of these trends are actually part of a wider trend – museums working in collaboration with other sectors and art forms.
On a recent trip to Bath I was interested to see a small exhibit in the ceramics display in the Victoria Art Gallery: a case full of broken objects. The case comes at the end of the small gallery full of delftware, radiant lustreware, packs of Staffordshire dogs and more modern studio ceramics. It showcases items from the collection which are in a state of disrepair and would not normally be on display. As well as making an effective case for donations, I thought this simple display was a wonderful way of making visible the work that needs to go on behind the scenes to care for and preserve the city’s collections.
When considering the impact of museum funding cuts, I thought I knew what the threats might be: closures, or part-closures, shorter opening hours, staff redundancies, selling off collections, cutting back on all but the core activities. I didn’t think that something I’ve come to take for granted would be under threat: free entry.
At the end of June DCMS published a report Creative Industries: Focus on Employment which, as you can guess from the title, looks at employment in the creative industries in the UK. One of the sectors included in the analysis is ‘Museums, galleries and libraries’ and the report has been picked up by the Museums Association in two news stories (here and here) which both focus on the depressing decline in numbers of BAME employees in museums. While this is obviously a very real concern, especially with the MA making workforce diversity a key theme of this year’s conference, I wanted to consider some of the other implications of the report.