Maggie Appleton, the president of the MA and CEO of the RAF Museum, is one of the signatories on the letter published in the Times

Crumbling infrastructure is putting collections at risk, warn museum leaders

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 30.09.2019
Letter highlights ‘quiet crisis’ after years of austerity
Museum infrastructure is at “breaking point” with crumbling buildings threatening the stability and preservation of collections, leading figures in the museum sector have warned. 

In a letter published in today’s Times, the Museums Association’s (MA) president Maggie Appleton joined Ian Blatchford, chairman of the National Museum Directors' Council and director of the Science Museum Group, and the Art Fund’s director Stephen Deuchar to highlight the “quiet crisis” in the UK’s museum infrastructure and call for investment to protect collections. 

“For a decade museums have suffered swingeing cuts in local and central government funding while coping with record visitor numbers,” the letter said.

“We have delayed essential maintenance, patched or repaired infrastructure and rattled the tin for donations to fill the gap, but we are now at breaking point.”

“Fires at the National Museum of Brazil, Notre Dame and Glasgow School of Art are terrible reminders of why we must invest to protect treasured collections. 

“The risk is not just of catastrophe. In towns and cities there is a quiet crisis. Leaking roofs and antiquated air-handling systems threaten the stability and preservation of collections.

“Digitisation projects struggle to get under way or make progress. All political parties recognise the crisis, but it is time to deliver on their promises of help. 

“With investment, our museums will continue to represent the UK’s cultural influence to the world, attract tourists to cities and regions and inspire our children to learn. If the neglect continues, we risk losing what makes us special.”

MA director Sharon Heal called on policy-makers to focus not just on funding for repairs but on investing in revenue support for museums.

She said: “The impact of years of cuts and disinvestment is taking its toll on our amazing regional museums and galleries. The MA has been warning about the consequences of the cuts for the past five years.  

“The report from the Museums Taskforce, published last year, outlined the crumbling infrastructure and maintenance backlog that many museums have to deal with. But as well as cash for repairs we need revenue funding to support the fantastic and life-changing day-to-day work that we do with our communities.”

The warning comes ahead of the MA’s annual conference this week, where museum professionals from across the UK and worldwide will be gathering to discuss the issues facing the sector.

The MA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition runs 3-5 October at the Brighton Centre, Brighton. This year’s theme is Sustainable and Ethical Museums in a Globalised World