Parts of Britain becoming cultural deserts: museums body

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/11/22 9:20:02

With more than 50 museums in Britain forced to close through spending cuts, parts of the country face becoming cultural deserts, the Museums Association (MA) said Monday.

The 125-year-old London based association, the world's oldest professional body for museums, is bracing itself for more closures as local councils grapple with spending cuts.

Five museums in the northern English county of Lancashire are the latest to shut their doors to the public, including the world's only surviving steam-driven cotton weaving shed.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Alistair Brown, the MA's policy officer said: "When you look at a map of where closures have taken place it is clear some parts of the country are becoming cultural deserts."

"Since 2010 at least 50 museums have closed and we are expecting more closures in the coming few years. A lot of museums are facing very difficult financial futures, and we are working hard to come up with solutions," said Brown.

"We have seen local authorities closing libraries, and now it is happening to museums. We are very concerned about what this is doing to the culture of Britain, particularly in the less well-off areas of the country," added Brown.

"Museums are very important to our tourism sector, acting as a draw for visitors in many areas. Museums are public-facing institutions which deliver a range of important public benefits. They preserve, protect and promote the nation's collective memory, knowledge and history," Brown explained.

"In Lancashire we have recently seen the closure of five museums in one swoop. We have never seen a museum service so decimated. It included the closure of two textile mills both of historic importance, and both featured in major movies."

"When museums close their doors, what happens is a real concern to us. It is difficult to see how the lights can be switched back on at some future date. What is happening to our museums is the worst we have seen in living memory."

The government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is currently carrying out a review of the country's museums sector. Figures released by DCMS show that since 2010 spending on museums by local councils across the country has fallen by nearly 300 million US dollars.

The MA's Brown said: "This is the first time the government has comprehensively reviewed museums provision across England."

" The MA believes that a new strategy must recognize the importance of museums to every region, and must respond to growing concerns about the inability of many local authorities to adequately fund cultural services," said Brown.

The MA has called for sustained funding for museums, adding that lottery funding administered by the Arts Council of England has been shown to be spent disproportionately in London and in wealthier areas of Britain.


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