Remove Museums, Heritage and Arts funding

Until such a time as all residents of Birmingham are, housed, cared for, employed and stable we should concentrate on key services before culture.

In this modern age Museums and art galleries play a lot less of an important role then they did in years gone by.  We now have the capacity to investigate and experience details, artefacts and works of art virtually.

Being of a certain age I can remember when museums where the only place you could see items from the past and far off lands, but for this generation and moving forward this is no longer the case.  So why is it that so much effort and funding is being put into Museums and the arts?

So here is a proposal.

Make detailed photos, descriptions and videos of all artefacts and works of art that are currently stored in the museums and make them available free to all online.  

Any pieces that are important to Birmingham’s heritage should be kept and then brought together in a single museum.  This museum could be set up as private company that is overall managed by the council, but not funded by it.

All other artefacts and pieces of art should be sold and the profits put back into Birmingham’s budget.  I’m not sure how much could be raised from the sale of assets but looking at the white paper removing the funding would save Birmingham £12.5 million pounds a year which could be put into core services and stop them being cut so deeply or completely stopped.

We could even use this money to improve rather than cut libraries funding.  It’s a redical idea I know but we need radical ideas in the face of these cuts.

With regard to the arts, if an art form is good then people will pay to see it.  If it can't sustain itself then why should it be funded by the council when there are key services which badly need the money.  There are some schemes which might come under 'arts' that should be funded as they provide support to disavantaged and disabled people.  These are services which should still be made available to people but surely they wouldn't cost £12.5 million pounds a year to run?

Why the contribution is important

I understand that culture is a big part of any large city but we are in serious trouble and we need to concentrate on more critical things.  Spending money on arts and culture at the moment feels a bit like buying a big screen TV instead of food and clothes for your family.

by Dave on December 17, 2014 at 10:35AM

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Based on : 8 votes

Comments

  • Posted by APublicServant December 17, 2014 at 13:20

    I like the idea that all the artefacts/art etc. should be archived on-line and avaialable to view. Even as a starting point this makes it available and stands a chance of drumming up more interest in seeing the pieces or maybe even buying them.
  • Posted by Jayc December 17, 2014 at 20:08

    Museums are more than the artifacts within them. There are nine museum sites in the city some of which, such as The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, are there to tell the story of our history in situ. If everything were virtual - what would be the point of anyone coming to visit Birmingham - there would be nothing to see. Our 9 museums attracted 960,000 million visitors last year - think what that does for the economy of the city. Vistors need somewhere to stay, eat. They spend time shopping, going to the theatre, pay for local transport etc. once our art and other treasures are gone and we have spent the money, what then? We have a thriving tourist industry. Take out all our cultural resources and this city will die and with it jobs and livelihood. The city needs to keep its heart and our cultural resources are an important part of that.
  • Posted by Dave December 18, 2014 at 10:44

    Jayc, As i said in my suggestion we shouldn't remove all Museums. I think that the fact you said there are 9 museums (I personally was not aware there where so many and i am sure I am not alone in this) in Birmingham shows that there is definitely room to reduce the capacity and save some money.

    I agree that the arts and museums are one of many attractions that people come to Birmingham for but they are not the only things that attract visitors to Birmingham and I don't think our tourist industry would dry up if we only had 1 or 2 museums. As a matter of fact this could even improve visitor numbers as the displays would be more targeted and some interesting things that may currently be being overlooked could get more exposure.

    Regarding the numbers you quoted could you please provide a link to where those figures are from as I would be very interested to learn more.

    It would be interesting to find out how many of those visitors visited Birmingham just because of the museums or visited Birmingham anyway and went to the museums in passing?

    If an attraction is popular with visitors then surely it can survive without the need for investment from the council?
  • Posted by Sylvia2014 December 18, 2014 at 11:52

    It is my understanding that Musemums are already independant and have to apply for funding on a project by project basis. The funding is not all Governments funding it is from Europe also as I understand it. I feel social history is as important as war history as it reflects not just what we did but the tools we used to do it and if we loose that we loose were we come from
  • Posted by Dave December 18, 2014 at 12:14

    Sylvia2014,

    My suggestion is only with regards to the £12.5 million pounds currently budgeted for Museums, Heritage and Arts funding that are included in the BCC 2015 budget white paper.

    If Museums can gain funding from other sources than that would be excellent.
  • Posted by pcox December 20, 2014 at 21:38

    Dave, no offense, but this is an absolutely terrible idea on so many levels.

    If you only care about the purely monetary side of the equation then then your ideas fall down because the cuts a primarily going to be affecting people's jobs. Those are people who live and work in the city. The museums commission and purchase services from local businesses, and if you pulled the plug on the funding the knock-on effect on jobs in the wider economy would be considerable and immediate.

    The museums service has been hived off into trusts, principally so the council can impose cuts on it. But the council still ultimately has the responsibility for building which it would - rightly - cause an outcry to sell off. The main for example museum will always ultimately be a council liability whether they like it or not. So it's impractical on that level.

    Looking more strategically, what message does it send if Birmingham was to do this? Can you seriously imagine any other European city of Birmingham's size essentially saying 'culture doesn't matter to us'? People are currently moving here faster from London than they are going the other way. They are mostly young graduates. The idea that they would come here if there was no culture, or cultural economy, is inconceivable.

    Birmingham is the city that started the industrial revolution, which made the world fantastically rich, amongst other things. It was largely begun by a bunch of gents who met in Handsworth and discussed culture. Culture is what made Birmingham a great city.

    Chamerlain (J) would be spinning in his grave.
  • Posted by Dave December 30, 2014 at 23:08

    pcox, thank you for your reply.

    With regards to your comments on the monetary aspect of the idea. Unfortunately the cuts the council is facing means that any cuts to any area means the lose of jobs. Any services that are cut will have knock on effects to local business as well. I wish this wasn't the case but this is the cold fact.

    With regard to the buildings, I was under the impression that councils could sell off buildings if they wanted to, Obviously if there are preservation or listing levels on the buildings there would be caveats to the sale. Is this not the case?

    Your comments and many others that have been made on this suggestion sound as though people do not believe that Birmingham's culture is not strong enough to survive without council funding, I find this a bizarre suggestion.

    The idea that some of the more popular museums, arts and heritage in Birmingham could not be run without council funding does not make sense. if an attraction is good then people will (pay) to visit it and it will continue to exist, if it isn't then why is it being propped up by the council at a time when this money could be used to keep more vital services running.

    Strategically I think this (or a slightly less radical version of this) idea would say that Birmingham is more concerned about funding it's present and future than its past and I would imagine that is the kind of thing people looking to invest and bring jobs to Birmingham would be interested in.

    It is my understanding that people are moving to Birmingham from London (and other areas in the UK) because house prices are more reasonable and jobs pay about the same as London. I doubt museums, arts and heritage play a big part in the decision, and if it does then they will be able to afford to pay to support it when they come here.

    I wonder how concerned the 'bunch of gents' where with historical culture in Birmingham when they completely changed the landscape and structure of Birmingham during the industrial revolution?
  • Posted by nhayward January 07, 2015 at 15:22

    Museums play a vital role in our city providing education services to Schools and education and culture to its visitors .
    Its a really difficult situation as its a case of priority against other essential services .
    Museums are no longer part of Birmingham City Council as its an independent trust, so staffing is no longer a consideration for council to decide . Perhaps rather than have separate curators and teams running each of the community museum sites, perhaps a mobile team of curators / support staff could open the sites on alternative days - its not ideal as it would reduce access, but would at least keep sites open part of the week with the obvious savings - It would be madness to part close the central Museum
    Its a sad fact that all services should expect funding cuts - and that its very hard to justify " no cuts for our services " when cuts to elderly care and Children services are under concideration
  • Posted by Dave January 08, 2015 at 09:45

    nhayward,

    This is very interesting, are you saying that the council no longer supports the museum so a reduction in funding in this area would not affect the museum?

    If this is the case then it would put a dent in many of the comments made about this idea or am i miss reading what you are saying?
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