Job Cuts in Museums

July 27 2020

Image of Job Cuts in Museums

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

There have been a few stories in the press over the past few days highlighting the increasing number of job losses in UK Museums sector.

First off is news of a protest by employees of the Tate Museums (pictured above) against impending job cuts. 300 jobs are said to be at risk across all sites. The Tate is due to receive £7m of emergency funding, much of which doesn't seem to be earmarked to help preserve jobs.

The already strained Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Trust has also announced that it has entered a period of redundancies. Their blog above states that around half of their staff are at risk.

The organisation that runs the Glasgow Museums, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, have announced that they are facing a £38m black hole. Job losses haven't been mentioned, but it seems a very likely consequence of efforts to get a hold of their finances.

A few weeks ago the commercial arm of the National Gallery announced that 24 jobs were at risk.

The Historical Royal Palaces (HRP) are also in the process of organising voluntary redundancies across their sites as part of a major restructuring project.

Considering the all consuming nature of the COVID crisis, it is no surprise that the economic fall-out would be catastrophic across all sectors. We can be sure that the examples above won't be the last we hear of museum job losses. This suggests a few things. Firstly, that the UK government's £1.57bn bail-out wasn't substantial enough to protect the sector entirely. Secondly, that the end of the furlough scheme was, like many other industries have experienced, a temporary plaster on a fatal wound. Would an extension of the scheme help museums find their feet again, one wonders?

Bail-outs and grants will only go so far. It seems that the only way to truly save museums is eliminate the fears that individuals have in resuming their lives. Partial re-openings with social distancing seems to be a suitable stop-gap, but it won't suit every organisation's operational and economic realities. A vaccine may be the only way to get the genie back into the bottle.

Comments are welcomed as always.

Update - The York Museums Trust has also announced that it will be looking at redundancies after experiencing a £1.5m loss due to the virus crisis.

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