Arts Council’s new plans for museums and libraries

26 August 2011

Arts Council England (ACE) has released a flurry of recent statements and reports relating to their new expanded role for museums and libraries. In this bulletin we round them up and give you the headlines.

Estelle Morris Review


On the 14th July ACE published a review by Estelle Morris which looks at how ACE's current strategic framework, Achieving great art for everyone, could be expanded to encompass museums and libraries.

ACE will use the Morris review to inform the development of new strategic goals for the next 10 years for libraries and museums. These will be published in the autumn. Their official response is due on 12 September.

The Museum Association has asked their members what they think of the review and you can read their responses here.

For cultural learning this review is good news. It recognises the central value of learning activity across all cultural organisations, suggests expanding the current ACE goal of 'Children and Young People', and recommends the addition of an additional sixth goal around 'Civic Engagement'.


In his introduction to the review Alan Davey alludes to cultural learning activity, saying 'Libraries, museums and the arts all play a central role in exciting our interest in culture, each offering the public myriad routes to engaging with it.'

Morris makes the case for the current ACE goal 5 (relating to children and young people) to be extended:

'The goal needs to go beyond the impact on children and recognise the role played in formal and informal learning from infanthood to old age and the opportunity it gives for raising aspirations and widening horizons for people of all ages and backgrounds, at all stages of life'.

Morris goes on to recognise that the purpose of museums, libraries and the arts is to create a civil and civilised society. She also recognises that definitions of 'excellence' can differ between art form, museum and library, and suggests adding a sixth ACE goal to encompass all this linked, but different activity.

This sixth goal would relate to culture’s role in civic life and would play to the strengths of the cultural learning sector – recognising the instrumental as well as intrinsic impacts we see every day as a result of our work.

The CLA has heard from some of our museum partners that they are concerned about the lack of weight given to collections and the curatorial role, and from some libraries that they are worried that the full range of their activity and impact is not yet recognised. ACE has emphasised that the review is an 'ice-breaker', and just the start of an ongoing conversation.

Renaissance and museums

New plans for ACE's delivery of the museum development programme 'Renaissance' have now also been announced. ACE will continue to deliver a 'National Programmes' strand to the museums sector, offering support and advice on accreditation, designation and national security. It will also continue to support 'Kids in Museums' and 'Museums at Night'.

The other strands of 'Renaissance' will materially change and will become:

  • A open application grants programme for museums to act as leaders in their sector
  • A strategic support fund
  • A £3million investment into museum development and infrastructure

Full details of these funding streams will be released later this month and more detailed information can be found on ACE's website.

ACE are offering information briefings throughout September for senior museum associated professionals. E-mail to book a place, but do bear in mind that they are limited to one representative per organisation.

Future Libraries


The Future Libraries programme was set up in August 2010 by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and the Local Government Association (LGA) to support library services across the country through the challenging financial climate, and to ensure that libraries continued to play a central role in communities. Local councils awarded funding to individual projects to explore new ways in which libraries could meet the challenges they faced.


The first phase of the Future Libraries Programme has now concluded and a publication Future libraries: change, options and how to get there has been launched.

There is a wealth of interesting information in the publication, but Local Government Lawyer picks out the following as the key examples of effective practice:

  • running libraries in partnership with the private sector, charities and other councils
  • integrating library services with other community facilities like churches, shops and village halls, and providing public services such as health centres and police surgeries in existing libraries
  • sharing back-office services and mobile libraries between neighbouring local authorities
  • giving users the ability to play a more active role in running library services

ACE has now indicated their commitment to launching 'Future Libraries 2' in partnership with the LGA and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Further details of this new programme will be announced this month, alongside all the other announcements mentioned in this post, but for more information you can read the press release here.