Museums charity to close amid ‘challenging funding climate’

Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP), which supports more than 70 museums in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has announced it is to close.

Staff will be made redundant and freelance contracts “will cease at appropriate points” over a phased closure period, the charity has announced.

According to the charities register the charity has 12 employees and five trustees. Its income for the financial year ending March 2022 was £1.29m and its spending was £1.38m.

The phased closure follows the withdrawal in January this year of a conditional offer of National Portfolio Organisation funding for 2023 through to 2026 from Arts Council England.

After this withdrawal the charity was offered Arts Council funding through its Transition Programme in March. This is granted to organisations to either assist them to wind down or move to a new funding or operating model “in a managed and orderly manner”.

But Cornwall Museum Partnership said that its “extensive strategic business and funding review has clearly shown that a secure way” for the charity to “move to a new operating model does not exist within the current challenging funding climate”.

“The CMP Board has therefore made the difficult decision to commence a phased closure process,” it said.

Through its closure period its museum development officer role will continue until the end of its current financial year. In addition, its Cornwall Heritage Awards will go ahead as planned on 7 February next year.

“CMP is exploring ways to ensure the continuation and integrity of its exceptional work,” said the charity.

“An update on this will be provided as soon as details are confirmed with partners and funders. This evolution of CMP’s work will ensure that critical funding can continue across the whole of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s museum and heritage sector.

“It will also ensure that the powerful CMP legacy and the year-round support for 70+ small Cornish museums and organisations, will continue.

“For now, everyone at CMP would like to take this collective opportunity to thank all the museum team members, funders, partners, collaborators, consultants, colleagues, board members, councillors and friends who have been part of CMP’s story to this point.

“They would also like to thank the current team and the Board for their navigation, leadership, and empathy throughout this unexpected and challenging Transition process.”

Heritage experts react

Museum and heritage professionals have reacted to CMP’s closure, including Safer Museums Network co-founder Rebecca Morris-Buck who said: “So sad for all staff and freelancers affected by this, and those you support. CMP have been a shining light, I'm always telling people about your brilliant work.”

Bristol Museums Development Trust trustee Karen White said: “This is terrible news for Cornwall and the South West generally. Just shows how tough the funding environment is right now.”

University College London associate professor Dr Matt Pope added: "These museums began largely with 19th century philanthropy, were then taken under the wing of local authorities, who are either divesting of them or unable to maintain them.

“Museums aren't self-sustaining without core or external funding, even our prestigious national museums have to secure substantial corporate sponsorship."

Meanwhile, Victoria and Albert Museum’s branch of the PCS Union said the closure is a “direct result of the Tories’ approach to culture since 2010” and offered “solidarity with staff about to lose their jobs and the community about to lose a link to their local heritage”.

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