Gerry Steinberg MPIn the House...

Commons Gate

Income generated by the Museums and Galleries (HC 430-i)

Public Accounts Committee 8 Mar 2004

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Evidence given by Sue Street, Permanent Secretary, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Robert Crawford, CBE, Director General and Chairman of the National Museums Directors' Conference, Imperial War Museum and Rear Admiral Roy Clare, Director, National Maritime Museum.

Q19 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I have to say, Ms Street, I am not really a great visitor to museums, I get bored very quickly. I think I am described as a philistine. I would much prefer to go to a football match. Incidentally, you are a very important person, are you not? You are the Permanent Secretary in Culture, Media and Sport, do you think you could get me a Cup Final ticket?

Ms Street: I had better not say anything on the record!

Q20 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): After Sunday it seems Sunderland are going to get there and I would be grateful if you could get me a ticket. We will keep in touch.

Ms Street: It is a wonderful stadium, is it not?

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I do not know, I have never been. I could do an official visit while I am there!

Chairman: Just be polite for now.

Q21 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I will be very polite. I once went to the Tate Museum, my son insisted I should go, and I have to say I was far from impressed from what I saw. However, I went to the Wallace Museum with the Chairman last week and it was quite impressive, particularly the pornography, I enjoyed that, and Mr Boucher. So I am going back there with a camera. Clearly they have made a great effort to generate income and if you look at page 8, Figure 2, you can see they only get 220,000 visitors a year and they generated over half a million pounds in presumably donations and functions. That is pretty good, bearing in mind the number of visitors they get there. How can these museums do better? What would you suggest they do? Do you see that as your role, to suggest they do things? Do you think they should do it themselves and get on with it or do they need a helping hand?

Ms Street: Can I say first that I am sure we could find a museum or gallery with an exhibition which would interest you. If it is sport, go to the Science Museum where they have a fantastic sports exhibition on at the moment. I am sure we could find something.

Q22 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Would that be after I have the ticket?

Ms Street: Secondly, I think the Report is right in looking to fund-raising and venue hire as the most promising areas, although we should always make plenty of room for innovation, and there are some really exciting new things being done, not least by the Imperial War Museum and others. The Wallace's venue hire is perhaps the most interesting for the future because of where it is located and what it is doing and what more it could do. I believe that our role, as colleagues have said, is to stimulate, to get the expertise on to the boards, to make sure that directors and chief executives are in a mood to take on the ideas, to manage the risks because for every new business venture there is a risk which will bring me back to this Committee, and to give people really the confidence to try and mitigate risks and make more money for themselves and of course spread good practice.

Q23 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I am pleased Mr Bacon is not here because he will probably shudder at this thought, but what is your idea about management consultants, people like that, going in who are experts in that sort of field and giving advice? Do you think they should turn to people like that?

Ms Street: I used to be a management consultant so I had better not be too rude about them. I think you have to be an intelligent customer of consultants and I believe with more expertise on the boards, which we are trying to provide, they will be very well placed to judge when it would be useful to have consultancy in. But good business practice normally includes external help for specific deliverables.

Q24 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): You mentioned about venue hire, and if I had time I was going to discuss that, but I think will move to that straightaway, because one of the most profitable fund-raising activities that the Wallace said they had was actually venue hire, and whether you like museums or not, the fact is that they are usually in grand surroundings and do have huge amounts of space. Indeed, did they not say that FIFA had a dinner there recently, and they made a lot of money out of that. I cannot imagine FIFA going to a museum; I would be surprised if they could understand what was going on in a museum, but clearly there is a market for this. How much is that exploited by all the museums?

Ms Street: I genuinely think this report will help, because it illustrates very clearly that fund raising and venue hire are the biggest potential.

Q25 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): What about the Imperial War Museum?

Rear Admiral Clare: May I comment on this? It may be helpful. We initiated a revenue stream two years ago, which was weddings within the Queen's House in the central complex in Greenwich, and it was a business venture, and we were hoping to make a profit. I am delighted to report that we have made a good profit and we have orders full until the end of next summer. I think that is an indicator that there is a whole revenue stream that we were not tapping before. It required simply the registration of the room as a place to hold weddings. We also make a great deal of money - and I expect the Imperial War Museum do as well - from corporate hire, which, apart from people having a very good party in, as you say, very good surroundings, it also brings reputational added value because in some cases some of those who come then become sponsors of ours, so there is an indirect fund-raising connection.

Q26 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): I wish I had had my marriage - my wedding - in the Maritime Museum. What about the War Museum?

Mr Crawford: I can confirm that absolutely, that for all five branches of the Imperial War Museum, venue hire is a major income stream. It is an income stream which, as Rear Admiral Clare says, both utilises the physical asset at a time when this is otherwise commercially dormant, and brings in an audience which almost certainly is new, to a significant proportion, to the institution. The activities range in scale from board meetings of City companies in the Admiral's quarters in HMS Belfast through to, for example, Helitech, which is the bi-annual defence industry helicopter show - an international show that brings entrepreneurs from all over the world to Imperial War Museum Duxford. Then at the charitable end, for example, at IWM North, Trafford and Greater Manchester, at the end of next month some 4,000 evacuees who are members of the Evacuees' Reunion Association, formed a few years ago, will be having their conference and meeting and so forth there. I should just mention, if I may, as a small commercial, Sport and War, Great Games, our special exhibition at IWM North in the summer of this year. That might appeal to you.

Q27 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Can you get me a ticket?

Mr Crawford: It is free.

Q28 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Presumably, Ms Street, you are in the ideal position to be able to generate income in terms of conferences and so on. Do you ever produce a booklet or a leaflet which you send out world-wide, I suppose, to say "We have these facilities in certain museums that could be used for" - is it corporate --?

Ms Street: I will just invite Roy Clare to say something in a moment, if I may, but we do an enormous amount through tourism, so Visit Britain is the portal for saying all the reasons why you would want to come to this country, and there will be special events. You saw probably the best of it around the Golden Jubilee time, when there was a big celebration. So, yes, we need to do it in the appropriate way. As I say, museums and galleries make a big contribution to the economy, something which I think is not always recognised, by attracting just under 10 million visitors a year on our calculations.

Rear Admiral Clare: We do have a corporate hospitality brochure which we mail out every year and update, but we have also partnered with Visit Britain, with the help of DCMS, for 2005, which is the Year of the Sea, around the Nelson bi-centenary, which occurs next year. Visit Britain will clearly see this, with us, as an opportunity to encourage in-tourism and tourism within Britain. Around the coast, in all parts of the United Kingdom, there has been a very warm reception called SeaBritain 2005. It is an example of the way in which we can stimulate both tourism and corporate revenue earnings that will follow from it.

Q29 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Finally, I think, one of the questions that I asked the Wallace, to the director there, was basically do they pool ideas with other museums? He did not give a very satisfactory response to that, I do not think. I think basically what you are saying is it would be a good idea for all museums to do it. Should there not be a system where all ideas are pooled?

Rear Admiral Clare: I think, to be fair, museums do pool ideas, right across the UK. We are not constrained just to England, and the National certainly see themselves as working within the United Kingdom as a whole. It is also worth saying that the DTI offer SMEs a service through Business Skills and that is open to all museums if they want to have entrepreneurial advice, including the preparation of business plans, for example. We partner, and I am sure Robert does too, with museums that would like help and assistance, museums outside London, museums the length and breadth of the country. We have recently helped half a dozen in various corners of the UK in various ways with either revenue generation or with displays and exhibitions, which often amount to the same thing in their turn.

Q30 Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): May I just ask a final question. How important do you regard this fund raising, because if you look at this report - I cannot remember exactly where it is, because it has just come to mind now - on some of the questions that were asked of the skills and management, et cetera, I think half of the museums did not really regard fund raising - although they regarded it as important, it was the least important. I mentioned universities before, and I will ask again. Universities nowadays have a specific fund-raiser, do they not? Who would have thought that, years ago? What are the reasons why, for example, you could not have specific fund-raisers working for the museums and even pooling their expertise and working for more than one museum? That is the end of the question.

Ms Street: I think I would just say briefly that the report does acknowledge that every single museum has a plan for fund-raising, with responsibilities allocated to a member of the top team. I think that is in paragraphs 2.21 and 2.22. They say rather more cautiously at paragraph 12.ii that most plans are good, and there is clearly a challenge for us, and we will rise this, to enable museums and galleries to share their expertise and bring everyone up to the level of the best. I think the judgement is not to stop the kind of entrepreneurial flourishing that we are seeing by imposing lots of things, but genuinely to enable, to promote, and to spread best practice, and we will do more of that.

Mr Crawford: I would like to underline that, because income generation and fund raising have been absolutely crucial to the transformation and regeneration of the national museums over the last 15 years, and it dates particularly from the point at which we were incentivised, going back to your first question, Chairman, by being able to retain all that we raised. As for fund raising, the larger institutions will have sophisticated and quite substantial, in many cases, fund-raising functions, with professional development directors and large teams. Smaller institutions of course may find that more taxing, and some sharing of expertise might indeed be beneficial; but the importance of the activity is right at the top of the list, and I would not want members of the Committee to feel that it was anything other than chief officers' principal preoccupation.


Rear Admiral Clare: In my experience they are quite aggressive at the door in making you part with your money voluntarily. I have been hustled in one or two American institutions.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): What do they show in museums in America?

Q66 Mr Davidson: Things that have been stolen from elsewhere; but leave that for a moment.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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