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14 Nov 2017
Mendoza Review calls for development plan to nurture England’s ‘wonderfully different’ museums
By Alice Davis
Mendoza Review calls for development plan to nurture England’s ‘wonderfully different’ museums
A visitor looks at Peter Getting Out of Nick's Pool during the David Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain in 2017, the second most popular exhibition in Tate’s history
Photo: Yui Mok/PA Archive/PA Images
A major review of England’s museums sector has called for an action plan to show how government and funding bodies will continue to provide support – currently worth £850m (€947m, US$1.1bn) per year in public money.

The Mendoza Review: an independent review of museums in England, led by publisher and entrepreneur Neil Mendoza on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is the first assessment of the sector in more than a decade.

It is a response to the body’s 2016 white paper, which asked for a for “a wide-ranging review of national, local and regional museums” and pledged to put the arts “at the heart of everyday life”.

The review focuses on national infrastructure, government-funded museums and how Arts Council England (ACE) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) work with museums across the country.

Its recommendation for a 'Museums Action Plan' aims to grow the sector, with DCMS, ACE and HLF asked to demonstrate how they will help museums improve in nine areas.

Those areas include adapting to the modern funding environment; making collections more accessible; diversifying audiences and staff; cultural education and use of digital technology.

For the first time, the amount of public funding museums receive has been published – on average, £844m per year for the past 10 years. The action plan will determine whether public money is being well used.

“England has a world-class museum sector,” said Mendoza. “Museums play a vital role in the cultural life of the country. Museums sit at the heart of our towns, cities and communities.

"They are also our most successful tourist attractions. Their curators care for collections for all of us now and for future generations.

“National and local government are both deeply involved in this important sector. This review sets out a series of recommendations to government and its key strategic and funding agencies requiring them to work closely together to help our museums flourish.”

Researching the project, Mendoza and his team visited “wonderfully different” museums across the country, questioning 1,500 museums and members of the public. He praised the sector for its diversity, collections, community work, educational programming and research contributions.

“Museums can promote better health – for example, using collections to work with patients with mental health issues – and they employ and nurture a wide range of skilled people," Mendoza writes in the report. "They also offer spaces where we can experience beauty and understand our place in the world.

“As a consequence of all of these factors, our museums are integral to placemaking and economic regeneration domestically and promoting Britain on the world stage through their partnerships and exhibitions with museums in countries such as China, Brazil and India.”

The review found the sector is performing well, with more than half of England’s adults visiting a museum in the past 12 months.

John Glen, government minister for arts, heritage and tourism, said: “The Museums Action Plan will provide additional leadership and expertise to local and regional museums to help them grow and thrive, increase audiences and ensure a sustainable future for this important sector.”

You can read the full report here.

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