Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Joint Museums Committee, University of Cambridge (arts 219)

1. What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level;

The eight museums of the University of Cambridge form a unique cluster within this relatively rural but economically important region and the University is the major provider of arts and heritage services within the county and in the western part of Eastern England.  Moreover five of the museums are Designated and thus recognised as having collections of national importance to the country's overall heritage.   The University, through HEFCE, and from its own endowments, is the major funder of this academic, economic and public resource and faces spending cuts within the Higher Education sector as well as possible cuts from DCMS with the closure of the MLA and other agencies.   Within this context spending cuts threaten the University's ability to offer a public service through its museums and collections, as well as its major contributions nationally and internationally to the arts, and may lead to a major cut in services to the public if the maintenance of those services impacts upon the University's core activities of teaching and research.   We are concerned that future reduced funding, if concentrated only in major conurbations, will significantly reduce the cultural entitlement of this whole region.  We would urge the Select Committee to give careful thought to how the arts and heritage may be sustained outside the major conurbations and how groups like the Cambridge University Museums, working collaboratively, within and beyond the University, may play a part in this vital aspect of British society. A detailed analysis may be found in the University of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum's submission to the Select Committee.

 4. Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

We would endorse the point made in response to question 4 by the Fitzwilliam Museum that extensive short-term project funding is deeply unsatisfactory as a mechanism for sustaining the infrastructure for non-national museums.  Any process which requires bidding to a selective national scheme, such as that proposed by the MLA, makes it impossible to maintain an ensured basic service for the purposes of outreach, public education and access and without a basic level of funding there is less chance of augmentation from other agencies, including funding from the private sector and philanthropy.

The eight Museums of the University of Cambridge comprise:

· Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

· Museum of Classical Archaeology

· Fitzwilliam Museum

· Kettle's Yard

· The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

· Scott Polar Research Institute

· Whipple Museum of the History of Science

· Museum of Zoology

September 2010