Major investment is needed in the UK’s museums to repair buildings and other elements of their infrastructure.
President of the Museums Association Maggie Appleton was just one of three leading figures in the sector to sign a letter published in the Times calling for the government to step in and provide the support and investment that’s so badly need.
Ian Blatchford, chairman of the National Museum Directors’ Council and director of the Science Museum Group, as well as Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, were the other leading figures also calling for assistance.
The letter stressed that years of cuts to the museum sector, as well as rising visitor numbers, is making it difficult for museums to cope with the maintenance that’s required to safeguard their collections.
“We have delayed essential maintenance, patched or repaired infrastructure and rattled the tin for donations to fill the gap, but we are now at breaking point,” it stated.
Examples around the world where collections and buildings have been damaged, such as the Notre Dame fire in Paris and the fire at the Glasgow School of Art were cited to demonstrate the severity of what can go wrong when buildings aren’t properly maintained.
A report published by the Museums Taskforce last year highlighted three areas that museums need to focus on that are essential to the sector’s future. These were relevance, collections and funding.
In terms of funding, the report stressed that it’s not enough to have big cash injections every now and then. Museums need “long-term strategic investment and consistent levels of funding”.
The recommendations relating to collections also touched on a lack of funding. “Managing, caring for and sharing collections costs money and that money is in increasingly short supply,” the report stated.
Among the challenges of repairing museums are that they’re often in older buildings, which can have historical significance in their own right. There is also the additional consideration of where to house collections during extensive renovation works, or how these can be properly protected if they’re remaining onsite.
One UK museum that’s currently undergoing repairs is the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. Urgent repairs are being carried out on the roof of the Power Hall, the space that houses the largest collection of working steam engines in Europe.
The building itself was constructed in 1855 as a shipping shed to be used by the world’s first purpose-built passenger railway station, the BBC noted. This just goes to demonstrate the inherent challenges with maintaining the country’s museums.
These repairs have gone ahead after the museum received £6 million from the government, as well as additional funds from the Science Museum Group. In addition to repairing the roof, the money will also be spent carrying out a gallery redesign.
If you need to carry out major repairs to an existing building, enlist the help of structural strengthening companies to ensure the solutions you employ to restore the building are the best option and will stand the test of time.