Irish Museums address Joint Committee TCAMS

30 Sep 2021

Representatives of the Irish Museums Association (IMA), Dr Audrey Whitty and Gina O’Kelly, and the National Museum of Ireland, Catherine Heaney and Lynn Scarff, met yesterday, 29 September, with the Joint Committee for Tourism, Culture, Arts and Media to discuss the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the museum sector and the National Cultural Institutions.

Among the topics raised were concerns over the lack of a joined-up national strategy for museum development and the absence of museum being specifically addressed in national cultural policies, further exacerbated by these now falling within the oversight of different government departments and agencies.

The Committee heard from the museum representatives that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of museums in the Republic are not directly funded by the Government and are independently run, usually on a not-for-profit basis. These museums rely not only on entry fees but also on generated income through their commercial spaces.

Overall, representatives noted, there is a need to explore different business models and funding structures which currently are not addressing the needs of the sector, and core, multi-annual funding would be key in ensuring the long-term survival and enhancement of museums' development and planning. Also highlighted was the recommendation that investment in staff and capacity is crucial to prepare future leadership as museums enhance their programme offerings.

In further commenting on the address made to the Committee, Gina O'Kelly, IMA, added:

“Museums have a pivotal role to play in social and economic recovery and resilience of the nation. While recognition of their role has been apparent throughout the long period of restrictions throughout 2020/21, it is increasingly clear that museums have moved at a faster pace than the traditional structures under which they are framed in public policy. Support of their activities is in need of review and re-energising.”

In response to questions posed from the Committee, representatives also spoke to the active role of museums in leading dialogues around decolonisation and commemorations, and identified core areas that could be explored to support this work, including resourcing both national and regional institutions to enhance collection loans, research, and dissemination.

See below for the IMA's opening statement to the Committee, made by IMA Chair, Dr Audrey Whitty, or to view the recording.

IMA Opening Statement