Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Museums Association


  1.  The Museums Association is an independent organisation representing museums and galleries and people who work for them. The association has 4,275 individual members, 611 institutional members, and 131 corporate members. The institutional members encompass over 1,500 museums in the UK ranging from the largest national museums to small volunteer-run independent museums. The Museums Association is a democratic organisation; its governing Council is elected by the membership. It was founded in 1889 and is a registered charity. It receives no regular government funding.


  2.  Many museums and galleries have been rejuvenated through Lottery funding, however there are still a considerable number that have not yet received a Lottery grant or still have outstanding needs, and without continued Lottery support the future is bleak for many of these museums. Museums must be properly funded if they are to enrich lives, and serve society both now and in the future. The Museums Association hopes that the Committee will consider these issues in the course of its inquiry, and recognise that it is vital that the current level of funding is, at the very least, maintained.

  3.  Before the launch of the National Lottery, museums and galleries in the UK suffered from decades of neglect and under-investment. A spiralling pattern of decay had resulted in museums and galleries struggling to attract visitors within a highly competitive leisure market.

  4.  The Museums and Galleries Commission informed the 1998-99 Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into The Heritage Lottery Fund that the HLF had begun to rescue under capitalised museums and galleries from a severe funding crisis.

  5.  However the Heritage Lottery Fund Needs Assessment estimates that capital spending of £800 million is still needed to bring museums and galleries up to a standard that will protect the buildings and collections, and enable the institutions to undertake lifelong learning, education, conservation and social inclusion work. The Museums Association would like to see the Heritage Lottery Fund reflect the full extent of needs throughout the country, and recognise that long-term investment will continue to be needed to alleviate years of under-funding in museums and galleries.

  6.  Many museums and galleries, which have received Lottery funding now have world-class facilities, with enhanced provision for behind the scenes collections care and conservation. This investment has resulted in increased educational effectiveness, improved preservation of collections for the enjoyment of future generations, the involvement of local communities, and economic regeneration. Above all, this injection of capital has enabled some museums to regain their pride, to play an enhanced role in the prestige of the nation, and to attract many more visitors from both within the UK and abroad.

  7.  London has been described as being one of the greatest cultural capitals of the world. This is reflected by the number of national institutions located in London that are of national and international importance, and act as a magnet for visitors and scholars from across the United Kingdom, and all over the world. It is therefore no surprise that London has been the largest beneficiary of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Museums in some other major cities within the UK, such as Manchester and Edinburgh have also done well.

  8.  However the Designated collections in non-national museums throughout England also contain outstanding material of national and international importance. The Designation Scheme recognises that these collections represent a significant part of England's outstanding collections. These collections are often located in small museums in many of England's towns and cathedral cities. They are critically important for local and regional economies, as they attract visitors; and they generate a sense of community ownership and involvement, however they have not received the same level of financial investment from the Lottery.

  9.  The Culture, Media and Sport Committee's First Report on The Heritage Lottery Fund concludes that "Fairness should be one of the guiding principles in the distribution of Lottery money". For a variety of reasons it has not always been as easy for smaller institutions to obtain comparable levels of investment from the Lottery. One example is access to the availability of European and central Government partnership funding is not always exploited. The Museums Association suggests that a more flexible attitude towards partnership funding for those museums which have received particularly low levels of Lottery funding, should help to alleviate this situation.

  10.  The August 2000 Review of Lottery Application Processes by the Quality, Efficiency and Standards team (QUEST), has identified a number of problems that smaller institutions face when applying for Lottery funding, and has made a series of recommendations to the Secretary of State to improve the process, thus making it fairer to the applicants, whatever their capacity. The Museums Association supports these recommendations, and considers that they will be of considerable benefit to the smaller non-national museums.

  11.  The Museums Association considers that it is extremely important that a continuing stream of income is made available to the heritage sector, and welcomes the Government's guarantee that heritage will continue to receive a 162/3s per cent share of the income from the National Lottery. However the Museums Association would oppose the introduction of any additional good causes as less money would be available for the existing good causes. Any further reduction in funding could result in a situation where too many of the UK's museums lack essential financial investment, and in some cases may no longer become sustainable.

  12.  The Museums Association notes that a recent Parliamentary Answer (Hansard, 12 July 2000, col 482), indicates that the administrative costs of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1998-99 were 3.8 per cent. This demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

  13.  The Museums Association also notes that 62 per cent of Heritage Lottery Fund grants have been allocated to the 100 most deprived local authority areas, thus contributing to improving the quality of cultural life for people who work and live in those areas.

  14.  It is clear that sine 1993 much has been achieved, however the number of applications for Lottery funding continue to exceed the funds available, and there remains an urgent need to continue to distribute funds to the national heritage and museums in particular.


  15.  The Millennium Commission was established in February 1994 to receive and distribute one fifth of the proceeds of the National Lottery available for good causes. The aim of the Millennium Commission was to mark the close of the second millennium, and to encourage projects that would be lasting monuments to the achievements and aspirations of the people of the United Kingdom. However when questioned during oral evidence for the Culture Media and Sport Committee's Eighth Report, Marking the Millennium, Mr Mike O'Connor, Director and Accounting Officer, The Millennium Commission, conceded that, "If you say to me can I give you a guarantee that all of these projects will prosper forever more, that is not a guarantee I can give you."

  16.  The Museums Association remains concerned about the future of Millennium Commission capital funded projects, and that it may conclude its work without addressing the need for on-going financial provision for projects in difficulty. We therefore strongly support the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport's Eighth Report, Marking the Millennium, recommendation 30, ". . . we recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport set out in its response to this Report its strategy for responding to demands for additional funding for the Millennium Commission's capital projects after the Commission's resources from the National Lottery have been spent and the Commission has been wound up."

October 2000

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