State of the nations

Sharon Heal, 19.09.2017
MA across the UK
In September, I am hopping about the UK talking to members, funders, politicians and stakeholders about museums and their value to society.

So far, I have been to Cardiff and Belfast and I am currently writing this blog from Scotland. At the end of the week I will talk to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in England about its plans for the publication of its Museums Review.

I have been struck on my journeys by the difference in cultural policy between nations and also by the commonality of experience and approach.

The journey started, appropriately enough, with a Museums Association’s (MA) Nations Committee meeting in Cardiff. The MA is committed to understanding and representing all four nations of the UK, and being present and listening to what members have to say is a key way of doing that.

The sector in Wales is currently grappling with the development of a new museum strategy and the ambition is for it to be bold and positive. Discussion with the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries in Wales, the National Museum and MA representatives was useful to set out a clear vision for how we might achieve that.

In Belfast, where there is currently very little in the way of government, we had a series of meetings including a panel meeting for our conference there in 2018, a members’ meeting held jointly with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Our Museum project and a launch event for our Museums Change Lives campaign.

Museums in Northern Ireland are old hands at dealing with the vagaries of political neglect and, conversely, interference, and it was great to talk to members and sector representatives about the positive and transformative impact of museums working with their communities.

Here in Edinburgh the MA is also networking, bringing people together and listening to the sector. The Scottish government is attuned to the role that culture and museums can play, especially in creating a sense of place and identity. This chimes well with the MA’s values and we will be gathering responses to the Scottish Government’s cultural strategy consultation so we can feedback on behalf of the sector.

One way that the MA can stay in touch with our members and the sector throughout the UK is through our network of members representatives. We recently recruited a new batch and had a really great day in Birmingham (thanks to Birmingham Museums Trust for its hospitality) discussing what the MA can do to support the sector.

Our representatives are keen to network and engage and want to help the MA support and represent the sector in all its diversity across the UK. Why don’t you find out who your local representative is and get connected, we are here to listen – and campaign – on your behalf.