Museum visits up, but less funding means staff cuts

Research by the Art Fund finds many rely increasingly on volunteers

Museums are benefiting from 'the great staycation' but are being forced to cut staffing levels because of falling funding, according to new research.

A survey carried out by the Art Fund, a charity that saves works of art, showed that more than 50 per cent of the 225 institutions that responded experienced a rise in visitor numbers this summer.

A fifth of museums experienced a rise in visitors of more than 10 per cent compared with the same period last year, as the public chose home-grown attractions instead of foreign holidays. 

But financial difficulties are forcing museums to shed paid staff and rely on volunteers, the report warns.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents saw a fall in public funding and 41 per cent said they had experienced a decline in investment income. Running costs increased for 30 per cent of them.

Financial problems were causing the replacement of the paid workforce at museums by volunteers. Twenty-two per cent of museums said they had cut the number of paid staff between March and September, and 25 per cent saw an increase in the number of volunteers they used.

"There is a clear trend of reliance on volunteers emerging," the report says. "Budget cuts, recruitment freezes, posts being merged and redundancies were the key factors in the reduction of staff."

Andrew Macdonald, acting director of the Art Fund, said: "It is worrying to see that investment in museums and galleries appears to be drying up just at the point that they have most to offer people. We need to be vigilant to ensure that the quality of what our museums and galleries can offer does not suffer as a result of their need to economise."

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