Earlier today (18th June 2013), it was reported on the BBC’s news website that the proposed cuts to the Department of Culture Media and Sports would be softened considerably, to allow the Science Museum Group to keep open the three museums that were previously under threat due to the proposals first reported. This means a victory for the supporters of the various high profile campaigns headed by leaders of local governments in which each museum is situated. This may be the end of the campaign, but it is however not the end of the battle.
In the longer term, the entire reason behind the proposed cuts was to free up money in the central treasury and reduce the deficit of nearly a trillion pounds. And for as long as that deficit is there, for as long as the underlying threat of closure of museums will remain. Which means that before the bouquets can be handed out to the people who were instrumental in the saviour of the museums, the situation must be assessed and further action taken to secure the future of the establishments.
Of all the hot debates that have fired up across the heritage scene, one subject rings true: admission charging. Currently, all the museums are free, but a donation is requested upon entry with a suggested donation of prices ranging from £3 to £5. One way in which the museums could turn around their apparent unfavourable position in the treasury offices is to take the suggested donations and introduce them as fixed entry fees. This will enable the museums to keep the prices of the souvenirs and refreshments more or less the same in line with inflation, and enable them to make their own money whilst doing so. This would relieve pressure on the budget for the department as a whole, and allow the museums to effectively cement their own futures into place. And with many people stating they’d be happy to pay an entrance fee, it does sound like the entrance fee idea would not result in too much of a downturn in footfall.
Other ideas, such as more intense fundraising schemes, better/more advertising, better prior research into large scale events such as Railfest and even additional integration with other groups, could all bring in additional revenue and stem any outgoings with all the involved museums. If introduced in a uniformed fashion, most of the current obstacles with cost could be overcome.
In finale, this is the start of a long road to recovery, in which our museums with the help of volunteers and local governments must adapt and change to suit the ever changing world around them. And with many connected with them willing to embrace change to secure their future, the support is there for them to use accordingly. Everything is in place, so it’s time to move on.