Close this search box.
DCMS outlines (A) New Approach

Geraldine Kendall Adams, DCMS outlines new approach to valuing culture and heritage, Museums Association, 29 January 2021

Research programme aims to help sector make stronger business case for investment.

An ambitious programme of research launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) aims to better articulate the value of culture and heritage to society.

The new Culture and Heritage Capital Programme will develop a more formal, standardised approach to valuing culture and heritage assets in England, using a range of “novel and complex” valuation methods.

It will provide sector-specific evidence of public benefit and impact – similar to that which is already available for sectors such as crime and health – to help guide spending decisions on culture and heritage for both public sector and private investors.

The programme will complement the Social Cost Benefit Analysis set out in the Treasury’s 2018 Green Book, which recommended that non-market goods like culture be valued in monetary terms. The book provides guidance on how to appraise and evaluate policies, programmes and projects.

As part of the programme, DCMS has published a decision-making framework that is designed to be used and understood by people who do not have prior knowledge of the culture and heritage sectors or valuation methods, including internal decision-makers and external stakeholders. The framework will be updated as work on the programme progresses.

The programme will be overseen by an advisory board chaired by Neil Mendoza, commissioner of the government’s post-Covid strategy for cultural recovery and renewal and author of the 2017 Mendoza review of museums in England.

“We need to make sustainable, evidence-based decisions so we can preserve cultural venues and sites while enabling people to enjoy them,” said Mendoza. “These new economic tools will make an important contribution to how we measure the value of culture and heritage.”

DCMS has also published a Rapid Evidence Assessment that provides an overview of the current literature valuing culture and heritage assets. It identifies studies that align with best practice methods and identifies weaknesses and gaps in existing knowledge.

Over the coming years, the department plans to work with arm’s-length bodies, academia and the wider sector to conduct analysis to support the aims of the programme, which it says will take a cross-disciplinary approach that combines economic methodology with other disciplines such as heritage science.

A number of sector partners, including Arts Council England (ACE), Historic England and the British Film Institute, have produced research reports to coincide with the launch of the programme, showing how much visitors value engagement with culture and heritage.

The arts council’s guidance, How to Quantify the Public Benefit of your Museum using Economic Value, provides an overview and further guidance on a number of techniques that can be used to estimate the total annual public benefit of a museum.

Its research calculated that, in a worked example of a regional museum, the total non-market value was £3.96m, compared to annual operating costs of just under £2m.

ACE chief executive Darren Henley said: “We’ll be working with our cultural organisations to use these tools as they continue to play their part in helping the nation recover from the pandemic.”

Bristol was one of the cities examined in the Historic England report Celuici, Wikimedia Commons.

Historic England’s report, Cultural Heritage Capital and the Value of Place, used the Green Book-endorsed “contingent valuation” method to provide evidence about the value of local heritage sites.

Focusing on heritage sites in eight medium-sized English cities, the research found that local residents are willing to pay an annual voluntary contribution of between £5.73 to £7.80 per household per year towards their local heritage sites.

Historic England chairman Laurie Magnus said: “Developing this framework, long championed by Historic England, is an essential step in establishing a universally recognised standard for measuring the social and economic values of our extensive and dynamic cultural heritage.

“Through ensuring a consistent approach across the cultural and heritage sectors, it will provide an authoritative basis for demonstrating public benefit and impact.”