Regimental Museums on a ‘Cliff Edge’?

Following my last post on my trip to The Queen’s Royal Lancers & Notts Yeomanry Museum, I wanted to briefly draw attention to growing evidence of the threat to the UK’s regimental collections (outside London at any rate). This has been brought to our attention in an article today which reveals council culture budgets across the nation have been reduced by a third. The article by Ammar Kalia examines a large disparity between generous funding for London and relative poverty for the regions. It makes specific reference to a council very local to me apparently “removing all four curators at its museums in light of a £320,000 cut in its arts budget.” Elsewhere, a Museum Trust director declares “we hear about smaller cities and shire counties’ museums which are teetering on the brink of closing down if another round of cuts come through.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/may/07/cuts-england-museums-london-cliff-edge

The article considers museums generally but I’ve wondered in one of my museum reports before now just how cuts might impact upon the future of regimental collections

This year alone, it’s notable that already two potential visits to local regimental collections that I was considering to make have been stymied for an extended period due to ‘refurbishment’ – is it possible to suspect these temporary closures could even become permanent in such circumstances?

For the military history enthusiast, it’s now vitally important to continue appreciating and supporting such museums while they are still around to be enjoyed. As cuts to budgets bite, it’s sobering to consider that in some cases, my regimental museum reports may sadly become one of the few means then available to appreciate something of these wonderful collections.

6 thoughts on “Regimental Museums on a ‘Cliff Edge’?

  1. My own local Regimental Museum was the Middlesex Regiment one at Bruce Castle in north London. This collection disappeared back when Thatcher was PM. The claim is all items went to the National Army Museum but what’s the betting the Regimental Silver was sold off by the goverment of the day?

    So London may seem to get a larger slice of the pie but Tory cuts hit there as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting, Brian. I visited the National Army Museum last year which had been refurbished. All very tasteful and modern but there must have been a tremendous amount of exhibits lying in storage unseen including, I suppose, the Middlesex Regt’s collection. “Consolidating” collections like that may become more and more common sadly.

      You’re right of course about the cuts including the metropolis too. I’ve heard privatisation called ‘selling off the family silver’ – maybe it was the regimental silver too!

      Thanks for your comments and taking an interest.

      Marvin

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  2. Marvin
    Interesting but depressing article.
    This is affecting arts, museums and galleries everywhere, especially regional and council funded ones since the recession and the drying up of grant funding. People leave and are not replaced – short term saving. Long term – Collection skills such as cleaning and storing objects remain undone or less frequently done. Collections remain boxed up behind the scenes. Archives remain uncatalogued or back logged depending on volunteers.

    One solution is for us all to visit more and pay for entry. Making many museums free in the past meant money had to come from central or local government. Regimental museums also relied on the MOD for funding, so with defence cuts and regimental mergers and amalgamations, that support went. I’m not sure what Regimental history recruits now learn.

    Now the impetus of the WW1 centenary has gone, with its emphasis on social, family, local and military history , will the forthcoming WW2 anniversaries be a stimulus to further visits?

    Apart from supporting our local or regional museums, the other solution is even more time consuming – volunteering at your local regimental museum.

    I’’m not sure that either of these will cover the serious funding deficit.

    Mark Man of TIN blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Mark.

      Solutions are at the national scale, really. Paying for entry isn’t without its costs (if you ‘scuse the pun), putting a barrier up to people on low incomes or who might otherwise visit something new. The ultimate solution is better funding which is about central government deciding what are its own priorities.

      Meanwhile, whilst the squeeze on local government finances continues, local government of course rightly prioritises the most immediate essentials such as social care but as the article suggests, the benefits of the arts and museums are less immediate than some services but can be equally profound. In the meantime, enjoy them while you can!

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      1. Interesting point re social and health care priorities. Social prescribing by NHS of volunteering is becoming one way of dealing with social isolation and mental health etc. However, as I sometimes work with volunteers including the odd veteran I know that low income and rural / public transport issues can make this inaccessible.
        I thought the Shropshire idea of contacting the veterans of the regiment for funding was a good fund starter one though, not that all veterans are that well off.
        Some people are put off by the militaristic, Colonial or imperial connotations of regimental museums. It’s also needs to be as In the WW1 centenary about embedding the regimental museum into the community through social and family history.

        As you say, use them or lose them. I think your regimental Museum blogposts highlight the problems, celebrate their continued but fragile existence and should generate interest in the museums themselves. We all owe you some Thanks Marvin!

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