Credit Crunch affects Museum plans

A while ago there were all these grand plans to create a Museum of 'Britishness' which would, naturally, celebrate the wonder that is the history of the British Isles. It always made me wonder what grand narrative they would come up with for that one but sadly we might not ever find out. For, unlike the purchase of the Titian painting, the credit crunch appears to have a negative effect on the plans for a British Museum, sorry Museum of Britain, and instead it will be a much more modest affair.

From the press release:

Roy Clare, MLA Chief Executive said: “The idea for a Museum Centre for British History presents a very exciting opportunity at an affordable price. Our consultation has brought us to a conclusion that the most stimulating and cost-effective way of meeting the objective for a museum that interprets Britain’s story would be to develop innovative access to the fantastic collections held in existing museums, heritage sites, libraries and archives across Britain. Many of these are publicly-funded and can work together under scholarly leadership to present Britain’s history in many places."

“The Museum Centre for British History would be a national federated organisation (including museums, universities, scholars, research institutions etc), supported by a very small staff working in existing premises, that would pull together research, planning and programming around the theme of Britain’s story.”

So, in other words, it will be an attempt to co-ordinate more centrally what is already happening across the country *grin*. Read the press release here which goes into more detail and suggests that a Museum still might be viable in the future.


Amy said…
Well, I have to say this sounds like an all round better idea.
J said…
*headdesk* The fact that anyone thinks this is necessary even in its abridged form is beyond me. Mind you, I'm not a British taxpayer, so I don't have a real right to an opinion, but I really don't see how this neo-Victorianism is progressive. (All sorts of memories from my MA project are flooding back, about how nationalism arises in vulnerable times...)
Amy said…
Well, that's true. It is Gordon Brown's pet project, afterall. It's supposed to be all about protecting the union...
So once more, what is this going to be like? Museum of Britishness.. that sounds like something nationalistic. On the other hand the British Isles had many more occupants: Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French, Northmen... Are these all going to be presented as well?
Ceri said…
Heh heh I am inclined to say bring it on, only it will be my tax sort of paying for it and I object to any attempts to try and define a nation through its objects or a narrative that will remain in place for the next 100 years (hmmm that's why I work in museums, I get it now...). Historians have been working on this for years and not really settled the argument so why the museum profession believes it can do the same is beyond me! It would be great if we could suggest a national narrative - perhaps it could be turned into one of those reality TV shows we Brits are apparently so fond about? We could vote on it! Just think what larks it would be!
Amy said…
Elli - I think that's the point. Since devolution there have been increasing calls for Scottish independence, etc. As a Scot, and keen on retaining the union, I guess Gordon Brown thought the Museum of Britishness could be a means by which to assert shared values, history etc, thus reminding us all that we're better off together. So not so much nationalistic (in a Victorian/imperial stylee), but patriotic perhaps. But, to be honest, us Brits don't really go in for that sort of thing any more. Most would find the whole concept a little dated, if not tasteless. On a practical level it would be nigh impossible to pin down 'Britishness' - we're such a mix. In my opinion, that's what makes us 'Great'. *groan* ;) But, while the 'museum' seems to have been a bit of a non-starter, I think an exhibition exploring the concept of 'Britishness' in the twenty-first century might be really interesting. But only if it was critical and enquiring and not simply propagandist 'feel-good' nonsense.
Hi Amy,

Thanks for answering. I have to agree that the generation that felt truly "British" is probably retired already. On the other hand, as you were saying, the concept of Britishness in the twenty-first century as an exhibition doesn't sound as bad. Let's see what will come out of this.. Take care,

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