I was appalled to hear that the National Trust plans to ‘dial down’ its role as a cultural institution and focus on the open spaces in its portfolio instead, claiming that the Covid pandemic has merely accelerated an already difficult situation. Even though the Trust has £1.3 billion in reserves, it proposes to keep only 20 of its 500+ historic homes and castles open to the public, to put its collections into storage and to make properties available to people who are prepared to pay more for ‘specialised experiences’. Furthermore, it plans to make 1,200 redundancies, which would include dozens of its specialist curators in areas such as textiles, furniture and libraries, as well as conservation. As Bendor Grosvenor, the art historian, observes, ‘the Trust’s senior management have been making a mess of their historic properties for some time, dumbing down presentation and moving away from knowledge and expertise’, adding that it was reckless to abandon expertise built up over generations as ‘once gone, it will be impossible to retrieve’. The Trust has been accused in the past of ‘Disneyfying’ its properties and this latest news will do nothing to dispel alarm. The running of the properties should be handed to an organisation willing to run them according to the founding principles of the Trust. In the meantime I, and probably many others, will not be renewing my membership.
It’s becoming ever clearer that the culture and heritage sectors will pay a high price as a result of the pandemic. As more than 300 redundancies are announced in Tate’s commercial arm, Tate Enterprises, about 400 at London’s Southbank Centre and also at museum trusts in York and Birmingham, together with the National Trust, it seems that the government’s Culture Recovery Fund is clearly too little, too late. Tate’s director, Maria Balshaw, has actually stated that the bailout funding will not stem job losses because it will have to be used to offset substantial losses elsewhere in the galleries. Little wonder that trade unions are threatening strike action.
My thoughts, views and musings about what's happening in the world of archives and records management, information and governance, heritage and culture