UK Museum Policy: DCMS reviews of museums 2017


The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has published the reports of the Mendoza Review: an Independent Review of Museums in England and a Strategic Review of DCMS-sponsored Museums in England. These were initiated as a result of the 2016 Culture White Paper that emphasised major themes of the role of culture in society in terms of access and diversity; the international role of UK cultural institutions; the UK-wide issue of access to culture; and investment, resilience and reform.

The Mendoza Review

looks at the development of roles:

  • a joined-up approach from government
  • a clearer museums role for DCMS
  • national responsibilities for national museums
  • a stronger development function for ACE
  • a more effective use of National Lottery funding
  • the closer involvement of Historic England
  • national responsibilities for national museums
  • how Local Authorities can best make use of their museums
  • best practice suggestions for the sector itself.

with the recommendations (which have been accepted by government overall) focused in the following areas:

  • Adapting to today’s funding environment: funding overall has reduced by 13% in real terms with big impacts on local authorities, resulting in some closures and moves to trusts. There are changing business models but museums are told to to increase and diversify income further to build sustainable and resilient models. Use of existing public funding needs to be smarter  and more streamlined, focused on long term benefit.
  • Growing and diversifying audiences: museum visits have increased significantly but visitors are less likely to be representative of the very young or very old, ethnic minorities, disabled, or lower socio-economic backgrounds. Museums are actively addressing this with a range of initiatives – nationals are mentioned particularly.
  • Dynamic collections curation and management: is affirmed by the review as the fundamental point of museums – “to protect and take care of the collections they hold, and to make them accessible to the public, not just physically, but meaningfully as well”. This produces challenges: maintenance backlogs; reductions in curatorial time and expertise; and needs for growth and rationalisation of collections. Sharing skills and infrastructure is seen as a good option.  There needs to be a strategic framework for national museums to work with the rest of the sector.
  • Contributing to placemaking and local priorities: an emphasis in the Culture White Paper on the role of museums in communities, local decision-making, and priorities such as health and wellbeing. Museum roles in the local economy; wellbeing and education; tourism and businesses. Museums need to measure economic and social impact.
  • Delivering cultural education: primarily supporting formal learning and the curriculum, but some implication of broader societal development.
  • Developing leaders with appropriate skills and diversifying the workforce to adapt to reduced public funding and encourage more diverse audiences.
  • Digital capacity and innovation: need for greater understanding of digital potential in museums. Emphasis on working internationally as the UK prepares for Brexit, which raises challenges for staff resources, loans/movement of objects and tours, and funding.

Strategic Review of DCMS-sponsored Museums in England

  • Reaffirms the importance and value of national museums and confirms that they will continue to be Non-Departmental Public Bodies, with various options for greater freedoms and governance.
  • UK Partnership Framework  that will include systems for more loans from nationals to partners in the sector; sharing of collections, skills and expertise; international activity and support for inbound tourism contributes to government priorities set out in the management agreements.  DCMS will develop a digital strand to the Partnership Framework that will work in tandem with policy recommendations from the Digital Culture Project, with the aim of: encouraging better integration of digital technology into business models and everyday working practices; and facilitating access to the appropriate level of digital expertise in executive teams, boards and committees, including on the use of intellectual property.
  • Diversity: Changed workforce and board strategies to enable more diverse workforces as a key way of reaching and welcoming diverse audiences. Compliance with the Cabinet Office’s Governance Code on Public Appointments
  • Commercial income: Sharing ideas and best practice on commercial strategies.  National Audit Office will consider updating its 2004 report on income generation in museums, including compiling statistics, benchmarking income generation and making recommendations on how sponsored museums could increase revenue from commercial operations.
  • Spending Review: In preparation for the next spending review, the sponsored museums and DCMS should work together to better understand the outcomes, effectiveness and economic value of each ALB. To achieve this together, the sponsored museums and DCMS will undertake, or commission, an assessment of the specific requirements of each museum, what they deliver in return for funding and the extent to which they are achieving this. In preparing for the next spending review, DCMS will review grant-in-aid in its sponsored museums and consider whether changes are required to better meet needs and recognise performance. This may include options on funding attached to performance, efficiencies and/or quality measures.
  • Reserves and Capital needs: Sponsored museums should review their reserves and endowments and related policies to ensure they are appropriate for the respective organisations and are transparent. DCMS, in consultation with Her Majesty’s Treasury and the sponsored museums, will consider how best to provide and/or lever further capital funding for national museums to undertake critical maintenance and repairs in order to protect and preserve historic architecture and their estates, and to enable the museums to become as efficient and effective as possible.
  • Shared Solutions project: By April 2018, DCMS and agreed sponsored museums will begin a project to identify and deliver further innovation and efficiencies. This will ensure recommendations complement the Public Bodies Relocation Programme and Industrial Strategy and is expected to include: collections management (including ethical disposals and transfers), shared storage solutions (including digitisation) and asset management; business models (including better engagement with digital technology and shared commercial operations and procurement processes); back office functions and collaboration (including the potential for shared roles and processes across smaller ALBs to improve resilience); and funding options, including joint and/or co-financing to spearhead initiatives.
  • Efficiency savings: DCMS-sponsored museums should continue to submit efficiency returns, demonstrating how they intend to make year on year savings of 1% and invest these savings in front line services. DCMS-sponsored museums should aim towards 3% savings by the end of the spending review period and continue to invest these in frontline services.
  • Sponsor relationships: The DCMS sponsor team and each museum will review their relationships, drawing on the Cabinet Office’s Code of Good Practice.  DCMS will work with its sponsored museums to revise management agreements and performance indicators from 2018/19 in line with agreed priorities and in support of the new Partnership Framework.
  • Governance and compliance: Sponsored museums will complete a corporate governance self-assessment by June 2018 and take actions by December 2018. Sponsored museums should be compliant with cyber security requirements and develop or review fraud strategy, risk assessment and fraud response plan by June 2018.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith