This Thursday is “Museum Question Time” at Shropshire Council

At almost the last minute, Shropshire Council has decided to allow a public debate on the future of the Ludlow Museum Resource Centre at Thursday’s meeting of Shropshire Council.

I had already put a question forward to the council meeting. You can read that and the response from the lead councillor below. The rules allow me to ask a supplementary question in the council meeting but I may not need to do so.

This morning, Shropshire Council agreed that a petition from the Friends of Ludlow Museum could be heard on Thursday. Although this petition reached the required 1,000 signatures to be heard by the full council, it was submitted after the February council agenda was finalised. Normally, it would have been slated for the May meeting of council. But this is the council meeting when the budget for the next year is debated and decided. So council managers have agreed that the petition should be heard without delay.

The petition reads:

We the undersigned petition the council to stop the proposed 80% cut to staffing at Shropshire’s Museum Resource Centre. We believe the result of the planned cuts will be hugely detrimental to the access and maintenance of this vital historical, heritage, archaeological, educational and cultural resource – reducing access from 5 days a week to between 1-3 days. We urge Shropshire Council to reverse their decision.

The petition will be introduced by Lottie James, Chair of the Friends of Ludlow Museum. There will then be a short debate before a response from either Steve Chandler, the councillor who holds the portfolio for museums, or Tina Woodward who is Chandler’s deputy.

Shropshire Council has already said that one post at the Museum Resource Centre will be extended by six months. We are hoping for further acknowledgement that the resource centre serves the whole county, and that it is also a nationally and internationally recognised resource. We are anticipating that councillors will recognise that volunteers are central to the operation of the centre and to the support of the scholars who use it. We hope the council will accept it needs dedicated staff to manage volunteers and the collections.

Later on Thursday, we get a second opportunity to discuss the future of the Ludlow Museum Resource Centre. Tina Woodward and museums manager Louise Cross will be attending the Local Joint Committee (LJC) in Ludlow to answer questions on the future of the resource centre.

So it’s going to be a busy museum themed day. I hope you can join us at the LJC, where we will also be discussing planning and youth services, as well as any matters you wish to raise.

My written question to council and the response

MR ANDY BODDINGTON will ask the following question:

Ludlow Museum Resource Centre is set to lose its three full time staff. The geological, archaeological, historical and cultural collections held in the MRC are of county, national and international importance.

What are Shropshire Council’s policies, over the next decade, for ensuring?

i. Sufficient curatorial staff are available to maintain access the collections.

ii. The collections are continued to be conserved in keeping with national standards.

iii. The cadre of volunteers that currently support the centre is maintained and strengthened.

iv. Public and scholarly access to the collections is continued.

MR STEVE CHARMLEY, the Portfolio Holder for Business Growth, ip&e, Culture and Commissioning (North) will reply:

i.  Sufficient curatorial staff are available to maintain access the collections:

Ludlow Museum Resource Centre proposed new model maintains an appropriately qualified curatorial provision at the Resource Centre who will continue to care for the collections and support the work of the volunteers and Friends. Other curatorial staff will be working in Ludlow on a regular basis and we anticipate there will be no significant change to the access to the collections.

ii. The collections are continued to be conserved in keeping with national standards:

The Museum Service priority is to maintain museum accreditation.

iii. The cadre of volunteers that currently support the centre is maintained and strengthened:

The current HLF funded volunteer project ends in March so we will be unable to maintain the volunteering opportunities at their current level. We will commit to offering a minimum of 2-3 day per week volunteering and are keen to work with partner organisations to consider ways of extending this. We have also launched our Virtual Volunteering Project so there is the option to work on the collections remotely or from your local library.

iv. Public and scholarly access to the collections is continued:

The current system of booking by appointment to access the research material and collections will continue but the days available to be booked will be between 1-3 days per week dependent on staffing. We will publish the available days well in advance and will be flexible for researchers who are travelling distances to meet their needs.