Warn­ing over Bri­tain’s ‘cul­tural deserts’

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By XIN­HUA in Lon­don

Parts of Bri­tain risk be­com­ing cul­tural deserts af­ter 50 mu­se­um­swere forced to close be­cause of spend­ing cuts, the Mu­se­ums Association said on Mon­day.

The 125-year-old Lon­don­based or­gan­i­sa­tion, the world’s old­est pro­fes­sional body for mu­se­ums, is brac­ing it­self for more clo­sures as lo­cal coun­cils grap­ple with spend­ing cuts.

Five­mu­se­um­sin the north­ern English county of Lan­cashire are the lat­est to shut their doors to the public, in­clud­ing the world’s only sur­viv­ing steam-driven cot­ton weav­ing shed.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Xin­hua, Alis­tair Brown, the MA’s pol­icy of­fi­cer, said: “When you look at a map of where clo­sures have taken Alis­tair Brown, place it is clear some parts of the coun­try are be­com­ing cul­tural deserts.

“Since 2010 at least 50 mu­se­ums have closed and we are ex­pect­ing more clo­sures in the com­ing few years. A lot of mu­se­ums are fac­ing very dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cial fu­tures, and we are work­ing hard to come up with so­lu­tions.”

Brown added: “Mu­se­ums are very im­por­tant to our tourism sec­tor, act­ing as a draw for vis­i­tors in many ar­eas. Mu­se­ums are public-fac­ing in­sti­tu­tions which de­liver a range of im­por­tant public ben­e­fits. They pre­serve, pro­tect and pro­mote the na­tion’s col­lec­tive mem­ory, knowl­edge and his­tory.

“In Lan­cashire we have re­cently seen the clo­sure of five mu­se­ums in one swoop. We have never seen a mu­seum ser­vice so dec­i­mated.”

The govern­ment’s Depart­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport is cur­rently car­ry­ing out a re­view of the coun­try’s mu­se­ums sec­tor. But fig­ures re­leased by DCMS show that since 2010 spend­ing on mu­se­ums by lo­cal coun­cils across the coun­try has fallen by nearly $300 mil­lion.

Brown said: “This is the first time the govern­ment has com­pre­hen­sively re­viewed mu­se­ums pro­vi­sion across Eng­land.

“The MA be­lieves that a new strat­egy must rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of mu­se­ums to ev­ery re­gion, and must re­spond to grow­ing con­cerns about the in­abil­ity of many lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to ad­e­quately fund cul­tural ser­vices.”

The MA has called for sus­tained fund­ing for mu­se­ums, adding that lot­tery fund­ing ad­min­is­tered by the Arts Coun­cil of Eng­land has been shown to be spent dis­pro­por­tion­ately in Lon­don and in wealth­ier ar­eas of Bri­tain.

A lot of mu­se­ums are fac­ing very dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cial fu­tures, and we are work­ing hard to come up with so­lu­tions.” Mu­se­ums Association pol­icy of­fi­cer

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