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Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Regional museums 'in crisis'
Nicholas Serota, Jane Glaister and Neil MacGregor
Neil McGregor, Jane Glaister and Nicholas Serota
Regional museums in England should be given a shake-up and a cash injection of 370m to reverse their decline, according to a report.

The Regional Museums Taskforce was set up by former Minister for Culture Media and Sport Chris Smith and has produced a five-year-plan to overhaul regional museums.

Baroness Blackstone
Baroness Blackstone took over from Alan Howarth
The taskforce is calling for money to create of regional "hubs" of excellence which could double visitor figures for leading institutions.

Praising the "astonishing" collections to be seen Neil MacGregor, director of the National Gallery and a member of the taskfroce, said they had been starved of cash.

"Collections in England are held by local authorities and by universities and with local authority reorganisation and changes in university funding they now have less money available," he said

Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone welcomed the report but was unable to commit the government to the increased spending.

Where the government has been able to find money through the lottery or whatever the changes have been dramatic

Neil MacGregor

"I'm going to have to say that I really cannot anticipate how this next spending review is going to work out," she said.

"We will have to consider the needs of the regional museums very carefully alongside national priorities."

Mr MacGregor said he recognised that this was not an easy time to ask for government funding but said that this was a five-year-plan.

He said that the investment would consist of "quite small sums initially building up over time".

One of the report's authors, Jane Glaister, director of Arts Heritage and Leisure at Bradford Council, warned that unless the investment was made "museums will have to close, collections will have to move."

"This position is now critical," she said.

Neil MacGregor
MacGregor: Presented Seeing Salvation on BBC Two
The report sets out the possibility of creating nine regional centres of excellence, focusing expertise and setting standards for the region.

These hubs, probably based in the big cities, would consist of one major museum or gallery in collaboration with three partners.

The hub would then get the chance to increase staff, build new facilities and improve infrastructure.

Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery and Chair of the National Museum Directors' Conference (NMDC) Regional Affairs Committee, cautiously welcomed the report.

"The proposed new framework of regional hubs requires further discussion and development but we welcome the principle," he said.

Mr MacGregor said this was a chance to reorganise regional museums and galleries to "terrific effect".

"Where the government has been able to find money through the lottery or whatever the changes have been dramatic," he said,

Baroness Blackstone said the government would reflect carefully on the findings in the coming months.

'It's a question of money'
Neil McGregor, National Gallery Director
See also:

06 Sep 01 | Arts
Pop goes the Portrait Gallery
03 Apr 01 | Arts
Tate leads museum boom
18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Museum rescue 'to cost taxpayer 25m'
18 Feb 02 | Arts
Blackstone heads up UK arts
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