Museums fighting for survival, national charity warns

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Museums and galleries are “fighting for survival” following the latest lockdown, a national charity has warned.

Others could follow in the footsteps of London’s Florence Nightingale Museum, which has previously announced it is closing for the “foreseeable future”.

Olympic artist Sir Anish Kapoor said the nation’s museums face “great difficulty”.

Art Fund, the national charity for art, predicted that small institutions are likely to suffer most and said more help is needed.

It has only been able to help 15% of applicants to its emergency response fund.

Sir Anish Kapoor
Sir Anish Kapoor

Its director Jenny Waldman said: “The latest lockdown is a body blow and is leaving our museums and galleries fighting for survival.

“Smaller museums in particular, which are so vital to their communities, simply do not have the reserves to see them through this winter.

“Our recent research found that six in 10 museums, galleries and historic houses were worried about their survival.

“Tragically, we are now seeing well-known and much-loved museums facing mothballing or permanent closure.”

The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum in Birkenhead is also under threat of closure, Art Fund said.

Florence Nightingale Museum’s director David Green said: “The pandemic has left us on our knees.

“Plans last year to celebrate the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, which had been years in the making, had to be scrapped….

A photograph of Florence Nightingale, at the Florence Nightingale Museum
A photograph of Florence Nightingale, at the Florence Nightingale Museum

“The sad irony is that Florence Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing and her teachings are being used to this day to help save lives in the pandemic.

“Yet the pandemic is the very thing that is closing the doors of the museum that is in her honour, and that should allow future generations to keep learning from her.”

Art Fund is urging people to donate to its Together For Museums crowdfunding campaign.

Artists, whose original artworks can sell for millions of pounds, can be bought from £15, with the aim to raise £1 million.

Works of art from Howard Hodgkin, Jeremy Deller and Cornelia Parker have been added to those donated by Sir Anish and Michael Landy.

Sir Anish said: “Museums are where we go to engage with art, witness our psychic history and understand ourselves.

“Today they face great difficulty.

“The Art Fund campaign gives us an opportunity to help museums to continue to provide access to all in spite of the difficulties of this time.”

Don’t let the doors close on imagination.

Museums need our support to help them survive and create a brighter future.

Help us raise £1 million for the places you love.

Donate and join #TogetherForMuseums. https://t.co/ZF6nxKWn9Hpic.twitter.com/6kb6GV1O99

— Art Fund (@artfund) November 19, 2020

Art Fund has also announced £750,000 of new grants to help 23 museums respond to the pandemic – taking its total to £2.25 million.

But it has received applications totalling over £16 million,

Recipients include the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, for a health and wellbeing project, and Portland Museum, Dorset, for a plan to recreate Rufus Castle digitally.

It comes as the Government published “research to help the culture and heritage sectors better demonstrate their value to society” to “make a stronger case for public and private investment”.

Arts Council England has shown that people value a visit to a regional gallery at an average of over £5, it said.

Historic England has shown that households on average would be willing to pay £7.80 a year to maintain the historic elements of their high street, it said.

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: “Today’s new publications will help museums, libraries and performance venues demonstrate their impact in villages, towns and cities across the country. We’ll be working with our cultural organisations to use these tools as they continue to play their part in helping the nation recover from the pandemic.”

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: “I am pleased that this new research will help us to better quantify the value and benefit that these important local institutions bring and will help us to protect them for future generations.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We have provided more than £150 million worth of grants to museums of all sizes, right across the country through our Culture Recovery Fund to date – from the Black Country Museum to the British Motor Museum and the Science Museum.

“On top of this £120 million in capital grants is funding vital maintenance and construction projects impacted by the pandemic helping museums, arts organisations and heritage sites. Applications are now open for a second round of grants that will help more museums and galleries through these challenging times.”

Donations and purchases, which will be match funded, for the crowdfunding campaign can be made at www.artfund.org/together

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