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Jamie Lawrence


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Museums ditching staff for volunteers – the result of financial woes?


Over a third of museums and galleries reduced numbers of paid staff last year, while a half increased the number of interns and volunteers.

This is according to the Museums Association, a membership organisation, which added that staff cuts were due primarily to a reduction in public investment.

“Interns and volunteers have plenty to offer but can never replace skilled, experienced staff,” said Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that although we were facing “tough economic times” the latest figures showed that visits to museums are at their highest levels ever.

However, the Museums Association said that – contrary to government plans for museums to attract increased donations, just 28% of museums that took part in the research experienced a rise in income from individual giving. Just under a fifth (17%) saw a fall.

Over 120 museums or museum services were represented in the survey, sent out by the Museums Association in July 2013. A broad mix of institutions was targeted, from the London giants to smaller, rural charitable trusts.

Mr Taylor said: “It is outrageous that young people are expected to work for nothing.”

The spokesperson for the DCMS commented: “Well-run internships can benefit both individuals interested in a career in museums and the organisations themselves. And whilst it is a decision for individual museums, the government encourages all employers to offer financial support so that internships are genuinely open to all young people and not just those from well off backgrounds.”

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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