Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

DCMS moves forward with Mendoza Review

Geraldine Kendall Adams, DCMS moves forward with Mendoza Review, Museums Association, 5 October 2018

The government has published an action plan for how it will support museums in England, and a partnership framework to enable national museums to “extend their reach throughout England in a more strategic way”.

The two documents come in response to the 2017 Mendoza Review of the English museum sector, which recommended that, in order to maximise the impact of public funding, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and its arms-length bodies should work more closely together and develop a joint strategic focus.

The Museums Action Plan outlines a series of steps that the DCMS will take to meet the Mendoza recommendations. A policy team has been formed to implement the actions and establish closer links with the department’s arms-length bodies: Arts Council England (ACE), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Historic England.

Planned actions include holding an annual event for other government departments and arms-length bodies to discuss museum spending and strategic goals, the first of which will take place before the end of 2018, and developing a publicly-available tool to collate data and map out a national picture of government funding and activity for museums.

Ahead of the comprehensive spending review due in 2019, the DCMS also plans to work with arms-length bodies to gather a “robust evidence base” of the ways in which public funding supports the activity, outcomes and impact of museums.

The department will review and update the action plan annually, as well as sharing data on the health of the museum sector, views on the progress made, and relevant projects and ideas from support organisations.

In response to the publication of the action plan, the Museums Association’s (MA) director Sharon Heal said: “The MA welcomes the commitment from the DCMS to better communicate the benefits that museums deliver across government departments and to prepare the best possible case for the comprehensive spending review – it is vital that the value of local and national museums is communicated in a convincing way.

“We also welcome the commitment to gather good data – this is vital in order to understand where museums are having an impact, to help make the case for public funding and to identify where the investment needs to go.

“One of the key recommendations from the Mendoza Review was for the DCMS to enhance its strategic role with regard to museums. While the action plan will hopefully go some way to delivering against the review recommendations, it falls short of a strategic vision for museums.

“The Museums Taskforce, which the MA convened, set out clear priorities around relevance, collections and funding, and we are working with sector bodies in order to deliver these. Our new framework for participatory practice will be launched at conference and our research and consultation on collections is live now.

“We are keen to collaborate with other sector bodies, government and agencies in order to deliver these recommendations and to ensure continued and strategic public investment in England’s museums and galleries.”

Partnership framework

Published alongside the action plan, the Museums’ Partnership Framework outlines goals and actions to facilitate a more strategic approach to partnerships between national museums, non-nationals and other sector bodies, in order to fulfil the Mendoza Review recommendation that national museums extend the reach of their collections and expertise throughout England.

It outlines the actions that will be taken to achieve this, which include holding tri-annual meetings of national museums’ partnership leads; collating and sharing evidence of regional need; holding an annual professional exchange event; and exploring options to share expertise and best practice in non-collections areas such as commercial.

The framework, which was produced by the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC), covers areas such as collections management, learning working with audiences, digital international and commercial.

A member of NMDC will be nominated each year to act as partnerships champion, the first of whom, the director general of Imperial War Museums, Diane Lees, will be in the role until September 2019.

New NMDC guidelines for lending will also be published this autumn to promote best practice across the sector.

The framework will have an impact on museums across the UK, with the document stating that, although the Mendoza Review applies only to England, “NMDC recognises that the UK museum sector is one ecosystem and is therefore keen to reflect that partnership working extends beyond borders and to ensure that activities include museums from across the country”.

Responding to the framework, Heal said: “We welcome the Museums’ Partnership Framework and the emphasis on a more strategic approach to national museum partnerships with local and regional museums. As identified, this has to start with a comprehensive needs assessment looking at what local museums and audiences want. It also needs to take into account that skills sharing should work both ways and that colleagues in both types of institutions have lots to learn from each other.

“Unfortunately there is no extra budget for this work but the MA would be happy to support skills sharing through our professional development programmes and events, and to work with NMDC on its proposal for an annual professional exchange to support networking and sharing best practice.”

Other sector bodies have also taken action on the recommendations of the Mendoza Review. Last month, ACE and the HLF signed a memorandum of understanding committing to develop a joint strategy and align their funding processes where possible.

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