CAREERS BLOG: Museum cuts – what would you do?

UoY Careers Imagine the possibilities LARGE dark green  Blog written by Kate Copland, Careers Adviser, Careers

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you are probably aware that there have been many financial cuts made to public funding. The Heritage and Culture sector has been hit particularly hard, as many local authorities are taking the view that things like museums, libraries and theatres are “nice to have” rather than essential. This “anti-culture culture” is underpinned further by the government’s proposed EBacc which will replace GCSEs and does not include Art or Music as compulsory subjects, even History is optional. Consequently, if you work in Arts or Heritage, this is all very worrying- how will you sustain your industry and how will you find suitable employees to continue to preserve and develop Britain’s rich cultural history?

This issue is a constant source of debate within the Heritage and Culture sector, with many newspaper and journal articles exploring the key issues and reports analysing what this might mean for the future. The Museums Association in particular is trying to encourage the Heritage sector to protest and vocalise the impact of the cuts, arguing that the actual extent of the cuts is unclear and the general public (and even the sector itself) needs to see the whole picture. The Museums Association have started a cuts monitor, where heritage professionals can record the situation in their own locality and have created an interactive map, highlighting how many museums and heritage sites have closed recently (42 is the current tally).

The way forward? The current government Culture Secretary Maria Miller, suggests the solution is philanthropic giving. However, as a report from Arts & Business highlights, it is much easier to attract investors and benefactors to the high profile and prestigious London museums and galleries than smaller regional cultural organisations Museum professionals also argue that philanthropic giving and sponsorship does not offer a sustainable funding model, as the focus is often around one-off exhibitions or building projects, rather than supporting their core services like education (Museums Journal, November 2012, pg 11: Miller reignites philanthropy debate). This kind of funding is also sporadic and unpredictable, which can make it harder to make long-term plans and invest in staffing resources.

Fresh thinking? Whilst acknowledging the problem is important, this focus on highlighting how bad things really are leaves little room for discussion on positive solutions. That’s where you come in! If you’re reading this, you are probably considering working in the Heritage and Culture sector. The current economic climate and apparent government dis-interest in the Arts and Heritage certainly presents a big challenge, but it also offers a potentially huge opportunity to students and recent graduates. Why? Because you can approach things from a fresh perspective.  You can channel your passion, enthusiasm and hunger to break into the sector and use it to create solutions not problems. You can write a job or work experience application that not only highlights your understanding of current issues facing the sector, but how you intend to tackle it. You can give hope. Now there’s a way to make your application stand out! So start thinking, if you were running a cultural organisation, what would you do?

Want to know more about working in Heritage and Culture? Check out our events:

Getting work experience in Heritage & Culture, Week 7, Wednesday 20th Feb, 14:15 – 15:45, D/L/047.

  • How to find and create heritage focused work experience opportunities, including museums, galleries, archaeological digs, heritage tourism. Also hear from some students who will share some tips from their own experiences
  • Identify what you want to get out of work experience
  • Understand types of work experience available
  • Undertake your own research into what’s available and know how to create your own experience.

Professional Connect: Arts & Heritage, Week 8, Tuesday 26th Feb, 18:15 – 20:30

  • An opportunity to network with York alumni working in Arts & Heritage, as well as Public Sector, Third Sector, and Consulting
  • Find out: what it’s really like to work in these sectors; what work experience and skills can help you; advice and tips from practitioners.

For more details about events, visit