Taskforce to Gauge Brexit Effects on UK Museums

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has many of the country’s industries wondering what their future looks like, and the Museums Association is making an effort to find out.

The Museums Association (MA), based in the UK, is creating a taskforce to consider how Brexit will affect the nation’s museums, namely those not primarily dependent on national funding.

The group has already released a briefing [PDF] examining potential challenges leaving the European Union could pose to museums, but the taskforce made up of museum leaders will dive further into these and create a state of the nation report focused on the museums and potential means of sustainability.

“The taskforce comes at a crucial time for museums after the EU referendum and is in response to discussions we have had with members throughout the UK,” MA Director Sharon Heal said in a release. “We want the taskforce to be future-facing and solution-focused and to create a sustainable vision for museums.”

Leaving the EU and its potential negative effects on the economy could reduce philanthropic giving to museums and eliminate support from EU-backed cultural funding organizations, such as Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens. The UK still qualifies for funding from these bodies at present, as explained by Creative Europe, so projects currently funded by them will still receive that financial support until an official exit.

The reduction of free movement between the UK and the EU may hinder the trade of ideas and talent, which could prevent the flow of skilled individuals to work and volunteer in the museums. In addition, the tone of the referendum debate could further marginalize minorities working for or represented in the museums.

“We are also deeply concerned about the divides that the debate has opened up in British society,” MA Policy Officer Alistair Brown said in a statement. “Museum staff and audiences from all backgrounds have voiced real nervousness about their place in Britain following the referendum. Now more than ever, museums need to work to protect their staff, bring our communities together, and promote a tolerant, diverse, and multicultural society.

Other challenges could arise if the nations within the UK, namely Scotland, vote to leave the UK to remain in the EU, forcing national museums to consider how they operate across the regions. The taskforce, which will first meet at the end of August, will look at how a British Exit would affect each of the four nations as they experience the financial strains differently.

“Each of the four nations of the UK has had different experiences of the funding cuts and also differing responses, and part of the purpose of the taskforce is to share experiences, learning, and strategic responses,” Heal said. “It will work through sub-groups to ensure that English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish perspectives are taken into account and that useful comparisons can be made across all four nations.”

The final report will help MA better advocate for museums to politicians, funders, stakeholders, and the public to ensure they are fully funded and maintained.

“At no time in history has there been more uncertainty for the museum sector,” MA President and the Director of National Museums Liverpool David Fleming said in the release. “A combination of financial cuts, lack of strategy, the failure of many politicians to understand the importance of museums in our society and to our economy, and now Brexit, means that many of the UK’s museums are in a difficult position.”

“The Museum Taskforce will report on the condition of the UK’s museums and will help ensure that the reality of the situation is brought home to public and politicians alike,” he continued. “The MA is committed to ensuring that the public is alerted to the clear and present danger.”

The Modern World Gallery at the UScience Museum in London. (Geni/Wikimedia Commons)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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