V&A wins Museum of the Year 2016 award

“Indisputably… one of the best museums in the world” is how judges described the Victoria & Albert Museum, which won the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2016 award last night.

The £100,000 prize was presented to the V&A by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge in a ceremony at London’s Natural History Museum. Accepting the award, V&A Director Martin Roth told the gathering of leading museum and cultural leaders that the prize money would be used to re-establish an old department axed due to budget cuts, which had been dedicated to supporting and collaborating with other museums and galleries across the UK.   Continue reading

Museums as consultancies – a new trend for arts organisations?

In an unprecedented move for the museum world, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has started to offer professional advice to collectors, corporations other institutions, the New York Times reports.

According to the article, “museum employees will provide advice and support in areas such as collection conservation and preservation, installation of climate control systems, museum management, and the development of educational programs.”

The program has been put in place after a two-year pilot as a way of guarding against revenue losses from declining government funding and to take the pressure off maintaining high numbers of visitors.

Adriaan Dönszelmann, the director of the museum, said that he believes the consultancy service could generate up to 5 percent of the museum’s annual operating budget, currently €45 million.

Dönszelmann added that the staff who wish to be involved will be able to spend 5 to 10 percent of their time on professional services. If the program is a success, the museum might hire additional specialists.

Could this new source of revenue mark a new trend for arts institutions? Robert J. Stein, the executive vice president and chief program officer of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, thinks so. “This is a little bit of where cultural organizations are going,” he said. “Most museums had been in the philanthropy-and-ticket business for a long time and are recognizing that some balance of that with earned revenue sources is a healthy position to be in.”

Leading museums accused of breaching code of ethics

Several leading museums may be investigated by the Museums Association after claims that they might have broken its code of ethics regarding sponsorship.

The Guardian reports that internal documents from institutions including the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery suggest that the oil company BP may have exerted undue influence on their operations.

The documents, which include emails, have been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Art Not Oil coalition, who aim to end oil sponsorship of the arts. The coalition have compiled their findings in a report which states that it has identified “inappropriate influence by BP in three key areas: curatorial decision-making, security procedures and opportunities for influence over policymakers.”

So far all institutions have denied claims that BP has interfered in their decision-making. BP has responded that it “never seeks curatorial influence”.

Alistair Brown, policy officer at the Museums Association, told the Guardian that its code of ethics encouraged museums to act transparently. Article 1.2, for instance, says that all those who work in and with museums should “resist attempts to influence interpretation or content by particular interest groups, including lenders, donors and funders.” He added that “the Museum Association’s ethics committee will consider Art Not Oil’s claims if they wish to seek further guidance on this matter and will contact all parties involved to seek their views.”

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UK Museums discuss drastic measures in face of funding cuts

UK museums are tabling drastic measures in the face of ongoing funding cuts, which include charging admission and selling items from their permanent collections.

Arts bodies had breathed a collective sigh of relief in November last year after they emerged relatively unscathed from George Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pledged to increase funding for Arts Council England (ACE) and to ensure entry to UK museums and galleries remained free. Continue reading