Funding Cuts Will Decimate Staff at British Museums Expert Says

Are there still jobs for curators in Britain?

The National Gallery, London. Photo Andrew Newdigate via Flickr.
The National Gallery, London.
Photo Andrew Newdigate via Flickr.

British museums face devastation in the wake of “swift and stringent cuts” in government funding, according to the head of the Art Fund, a 110-year-old London nonprofit that helps museums purchase works of art.

“You don’t get great acquisitions if you don’t have great curators,” Stephen Deuchar tells the Financial Times, saying that museums are losing curatorial posts as well as funds to pay those who remain.

In order to foster museum collections, the Art Fund has also instituted the New Collecting Award, which in its first year will underwrite museum acquisitions to the tune of nearly $450,000, including support for professional development for curators.

The Art Fund also warned against what it calls unethical sale of public collections. It released a statement last month, along with Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, warning that “the UK’s cultural heritage and reputation will be put at risk if museum governing bodies decide to sell items from their collections for financial gain.”

“The Museums Association’s 2014 Cuts Survey found that one in ten museums were considering selling items from their collection,” the statement went on. “A sharp decrease in public funding for museums—particularly those under Local Authority control—has increased the pressure to find new sources of funding.”

The Art Fund statement follows last year’s study showing that British museums selling off artworks to raise money face tougher sanctions from oversight associations (see British Museums Warned About Selling Off Works).

Museums have had to pool their resources in recent years to deal with reductions in government support (see Arts Organizations in the UK Respond to Government Funding Cuts). Universities are also struggling. British universities have “been forced to slash their teaching budgets in order to protect research funds,” the Guardian reported last year. Students throughout the UK protested cuts to university funds in 2010.

Deuchar has run the Art Fund since leaving the directorship of Tate Britain, where he served from 1998 to 2009. (Penelope Curtis took over in 2010, becoming the institution’s first female director. She announced her resignation this week (see Penelope Curtis Leaves Tate Britain for Calouste Gulbenkian Museum after Highly Criticized 5-Year Tenure.)


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