There’s a long-standing type of art gallery which doesn’t hold a collection, but hosts temporary and traveling exhibitions and displays.
Does anyone know of any museums which do this?
Go to the MA website to tell them how the cuts are affecting your museum – 40% are making redundancies, some by 25%.
The Museum of London has accepted the voluntary redundancy of three senior curator posts (Roman and Pre-History, which are being combined into a new role, and Photography), this is as well the removal of their Social & Working History curator post earlier in the year, and the senior curators of Medieval and Oral history. This is as a result of having to cope with around 10% less funding this year. Social history being my very favourite area, I think it’s a particular shame that one of the most important museums for ‘people’ history in the country, and probably the second most in London, has lost a post of that importance to it’s outlook, let alone leaving a pretty broad period to be covered by one person.
Curators are expensive. Sometimes they have a PhD and an AMA and everything. The idea that curators can be the most expendable is a tempting one. They work behind the scenes, it’s easy to hire in researchers to write your content, just refuse to do general enquiries. It doesn’t quite work as well as that in practice, though. There seems to be a current feeling in this direction. More museums are cutting down on curators, or merely bypassing them.
I’ve worked on a project where a PhD graduate with a thesis in an irrelevant field was brought in to research an exhibition which the existing long-serving curators could have written from memory with one hand tied behind their back. Along with poor design and complete lack of knowledge of the collections (which, needless to say, the curators had) it resulted in a permanent, flagship exhibition riddled with misconceptions and some downright inaccuracies. All of which could have been corrected if the researcher had spoken even once to the curators. The result was more London Dungeon than museum exhibition. That’s one example, of course, but it illustrates the situation rather well. In that case the curators might as well not have been there, in a lot more cases they really aren’t.
Museums have a power. Not mystical bollocks, but they have the voice of authority. When you put something up in the museum people assume that a border-line expert has checked the facts. Put it in the museum and you make it canon. When you cut down on your in-house experts, who not only know the history but the collections (which are, after all, a lot of the point) you are taking huge risks. You need real knowledge of your subject and your collections to create good output. Displays with little depth of research are unattractive, museums being unable to answer detailed or technical enquiries, or produce well researched educational events, makes them less useful to the community, the country and the world. And less useful places get even less money to spend on things that really matter.
I don’t know what the MOL should have done instead, or what any of us should do, but curators getting it in the neck isn’t just a symptom of The Cuts, it’s been damaging our museums for a lot longer than that.