Brexit and museums

October 26 2018

Image of Brexit and museums

Picture: NPG

If you're not 'British' and work for a UK museum, watch out; the government wants to know about you. I've learnt that the Department for Culture Media and Sport has asked nationally funded museums to gather information on the nationality of their employees, to "think about the implications of Brexit". The language of 'thinking' about employees sounds mundane enough, but if you think about it, it's pretty insidious. It leaves the door open for the government to take action against people purely on the basis of their nationality.

What's interesting about the DCMS request is the language they've used. I'm told that DCMS has said it only 'expects' museums to gather this information for them. In other words, it's not framed as an instruction, because the government likes to maintain the pretence that nationally funded museums are 'arms length bodies', in whose affairs it does not directly interfere.

Of course, in practice that's not the case. You might think that the nationality of who museums employ is up to the museums themselves. But in the era of Brexit it's not.

If I was a museum director, I'd tell the government where to go. But alas that's not what has happened at the National Portrait Gallery at least; there, staff have been told that while the museum "values all colleagues", they're still expected to submit information about their nationality. Sad times. 

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.