Milestone for Irish museums: Irish Museums Survey 2016 launched

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Launch of the Irish Museums Survey 2016 / LAMN 1916 Exhibition. From left: Liam Bradley (Curator, Monaghan County Museum); John Rattigan (Chair, Local Authority Museum Network); Minister Heather Humphreys; Brian Crowley (Chair, Irish Museums Association); Dr Sandra Collins (Director, National Library of Ireland); Dr Emily Mark-FitzGerald (UCD School of Art History & Cultural Policy). Photo by Gary O’Neill.

 

It’s out! Yesterday more than 100 museum professionals gathered at an event in the National Library of Ireland for the launch of the Irish Museums Survey 2016 by Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

This survey is indeed a milestone: it’s the first comprehensive study of the Irish museum sector in a decade. Funded by the Irish Research Council’s ‘Engaging Civic Society’ scheme, it’s the product of a collaboration between the Irish Museums Association and UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy.

I was the Principal Investigator and author of the report (along with the research team Gina O’Kelly, Dr Colleen Thomas, and Fernando Sanchez), and I’m delighted it’s now available as an online publication.

The results are alternately fascinating, encouraging, and worrying. Here are a few highlights:

  • There are approximately 230 museums in Ireland (north and south); 118 participated in the survey (ranging from independent/community museums to national cultural institutions)
  • 6.1 million visitors were welcomed by Irish museums in 2014: on average museums reported 35% international and 61% domestic visitors.
  • The positive effects of the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland (run by the Heritage Council) over the past decade in enhancing museum practice nationwide was widely observed
  • Provision of educational services has increased from 31% in 2005 to 60% of museums in 2016
  • Digital engagement has risen sharply: museums reported growing levels of collection digitisation, and high levels of engagement on the web and on social media: 98% of museums have a website; 78% are on Facebook; and 40% are on Twitter

… however …

  • 46% of museums have experienced budget decline since 2005; this contrasts sharply with 2005 data.
  • Museums have experienced drastic reductions to the labour force and increasing reliance on volunteers, interns and community employment schemes: 41% indicated they are ‘very dependent’ on voluntary/unpaid labour, and 17% of museums have no paid employees at all. The majority of museums (77%) are staffed by fewer than 10 paid employees.
  • Comments from participants extensively detailed problems with infrastructure and basic facilities, affecting museums across the country. Cutbacks on every aspect of museum provision (education, programming, conservation, security, etc.) indicate the broad and deep impact of budget reductions and hiring freezes.

The report is chock-full of information and analysis, covering all aspects of museum activity. We hope this report will help inform future programming and planning for museums at national and regional levels. This is especially critical for many institutions (large and small) which reported serious problems with infrastructure and facilities in a severe state of disrepair.

Our primary recommendations? In a nutshell:

  1. Establish a research unit to enhance quality and regularity of data collection, based at the Irish Museums Association, the Heritage Council, or the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
  2. Improve museums’ data collection practices by developing training opportunities for Irish museums, to better support advocacy efforts.
  3. Prioritise, in future policies and programmes, the primary resource needs as identified by museums: (1) capacity (staff, volunteers, time); (2) funding and fundraising support; (3) buildings and storage.
  4. Enhance support of community and independent museums, including a review of supports and the development of a national strategy concerning the needs of small museums.
  5. Offer additional training and resourcing in the areas of digitisation and the development of digital and online strategies.
  6. More detailed research is needed on museum outreach and education, to be further correlated with policy developments such as the Arts in Education Charter.
  7. Low rates of improvement in disabled access since 2005 should be addressed by museums as a priority.

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(version for web viewing)

(version for printing)

 

 

Arts jobs, events, and publication announcements

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Places Matter The Umbrella Project by Rhona Byrne, commissioned by Fire Station Artists’ Studios and supported by Dublin City Council

Like most scholars of memory & Irish history on this island, I’m wiped – 2016 has been a crazy busy year due to centenary-related events (nine conference papers/presentations since Sept, plus an exhibition opening!) Apologies for the relative blog silence as consequence.

A few updates, in any event:

Jobs have recently been refreshed — lots of great ones in there: CEO for the Irish Baroque Orchestra; General Manager of Macnas; Collections Registrar for the National Trust NI; Heritage Officer for Westmeath Co. Council; etc.

Registrations are now being taken for Places Matter: what happens when we invest in the arts? on 12 January 2017, Dublin Castle, a one-day conference on local arts engagement organised by the Arts Council of Ireland in collaboration with Local Government. The speaker list looks very interesting (esp. keynote by Geoffrey Crossick), and I’m looking forward to seeing Emmett Kirwan in a new setting!

The Irish Museums Association’s Annual Lecture is next week (28 November) and this year features Diane Lees, Director-General of the Imperial War Museums. The lecture will be taking place in the special surroundings of the newly renovated Courthouse at Kilmainham Gaol. Tickets are only €5 and this lecture regularly books out, so do register to avoid disappointment.

Next week will also see the launch of two big projects, long in development:

  • The Irish Museums Survey 2016, the first major survey of Irish museums in more than a decade, will be launched at the National Library of Ireland on 30 November by Minister Heather Humphreys. I was the Principal Investigator on this project, which was funded by the Irish Research Council and executed in collaboration with the Irish Museums Association. I’ll be publishing a separate post after the launch, detailing some of our key findings, which will be of interest to anyone working in the heritage or museum sector on the island!
  • We’re very pleased as a School to announce the publication of After Francoise Henry: 50 Years of Art History at UCD (1965 – 2016), part of our current anniversary celebrations. arthistorybookIt features scholarly contributions from members of the staff, past and present. The book will be launched on Thursday, and will be available soon for purchase.

Who chooses cultural management as a career, and why?

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Today’s Arts Management Network newsletter carries a very interesting review of the French sociologist Vincent Dubois’ new book Culture as a Vocation: Sociology of career choices in cultural management.

Based on interviews with 654 students in MA courses in cultural management in France, it yields some intriguing insights on the demographics and aspirations of those seeking to become cultural managers (emphases mine):

Dubois examines, on the basis of his survey, the social factors and characteristics of the aspirants for an occupation in cultural management. In doing so he finds that these persons are mainly female, in the majority have a comparatively secure social background, often originate from families of academics and are equipped with a high educational capital. On top of that they frequently come out of an environment in which they early had the opportunity to socialize in a cultural way, as for example by getting private teaching lessons in music instruments or by being member of a theatre group.

This resonates strongly with my experience working in UCD’s Arts Management & Cultural Policy MA for 13 years. Given that arts management is often an economically precarious and competitive career, Dubois’ research into individual motivations for pursuing this path is intriguing:

Finally, Dubois points out further reasons for a career aspiration in cultural management – resulting from a broader social context. Thus, many of his study participants understand cultural work as an expression of self-fulfillment, freedom and satisfaction, because it gives them the feeling of doing something for the public welfare and acting for a higher purpose in life. Thereby, at the same time, they distance themselves from pure economically orientated occupational fields. A career in cultural management by that becomes a personal self-realization project, all in the sense of the central concepts of neo-capitalism.

Whether or not you agree such aspirations are an expression of neo-capitalist ideologies (and I would be more doubtful of aspects of this analysis), the descriptions Dubois offers are very compelling. To date, most research on the arts labour market deals with artists’ careers, incomes and training. Given the expansion and development of arts management as a specific career path (something I am directly involved with), this type of research is very valuable in thinking through the challenges of arts management training, and consequences for the sector as a whole. The overwhelming dominance of entry-mid level arts management positions by women, for example, is often remarked upon, but we understand little about the effect this actually has on careers, progression, and the functioning of arts organisations themselves.

One of the insights I found most interesting is Dubois’ description of the relationship between the social backgrounds of arts management and audience development agendas:

Dubois’ findings make it clear that the diversification of the audience required by cultural institutions can hardly be successful if the majority of their staff originates from academic families with a (high) cultural education. They simply cannot put themselves in the position of the living conditions of socially disadvantaged people or groups of society belonging to minorities and therefore in their work they reflect – as it is also criticised again and again – especially their own expectations of culture and cultural mediation.

This is a problem further exacerbated by the prevalence of unpaid internships in the arts, which creates a significant barrier to a diverse work force — a paradox not fully acknowledged by arts organisations that may run outreach programmes, but be structurally closed off for professional entry by individuals from similarly challenged backgrounds.

There are so many questions raised by this study — I look forward to reading the full text at length — and discussing whether they apply (or not) to the Irish experience.

 

Just published: Vol. 3 of Irish Journal of Arts Management & Cultural Policy

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I’m delighted to announce we’ve just published the latest volume of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy. It’s a special issue featuring the edited proceedings of the 2014 summer conference on ‘Mapping an Altered Landscape: Cultural Policy and Management in Ireland‘. Guest edited by Dr Niamh NicGhabhann from University of Limerick, it features contributions from a range of speakers on the day, who offer candid and contemporary views of the cultural sector and public finance, the role of local authorities, policy, the working lives of artists, and a range of other topics. The journal also features introductory essays by Niamh and conference organisers Pat Cooke and Kerry McCall, as well as a postscript by former Minister for Education Ruari Quinn.

You can download the entire issue here, or visit the www.culturalpolicy.ie to download individual contributions by:

  • Gerry Godley (Principal & Managing Director, Leeds College of Music)
  • Clare Duignan (Independent Director & Business Advisor)
  • Peter Hynes (Chief Executive, Mayo County Council)
  • Alan Counihan (Artist)
  • Mary Carty (Entrepreneur, Arts Consultant, Author)
  • Conor Newman (Chair, Heritage Council)
  • Ruari Quinn (Minister for Education and Skills, 2011-14)

 

Call for book reviewers – Irish Journal of Arts Management & Cultural Policy

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*Update: we’ve received a great response to this call, many thanks! The call for expressions of interest is now closed, but additional calls for future issues will also be advertised.*

The Editorial Board of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy is now seeking expressions of interest for reviews of the following recent publications for Volume 3 of the Journal:

Synopses of the various books and further details can be downloaded here. Interested reviewers should email info@culturalpolicy.ie by Monday, 11 May with a brief statement of interest and a short bio / CV. Books will be sent to reviewers, and final text (approximately 2,000 words) will be due June 2015. Style guidelines and further details may be found at www.culturalpolicy.ie. Volume 2 (2014) of the Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy (www.culturalpolicy.ie) is also now available.