Museums would suffer if Britain votes to leave the EU, experts warn
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Museums would suffer if Britain votes to leave the EU, experts warn

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With Britain’s government having set a date for the referendum on whether the country should leave the european Union (EU), leading experts have warned uk museums could be worse off in the event of a so-called brexit.

The EU currently funds a number of research and museum projects in the UK, as well as working with deprived areas on cultural regeneration projects through its regional development subsidies.

Museums Association (MA) policy officer Alistair Brown said that while most museum funding came from the UK, “large chunks” of EU money would be lost.

A range of funding options has long been available to the sector – and it’s unclear what would happen to current bids from UK museums.

Examples of attractions that have received money from the european Regional Development Fund in the past include the People’s History Museum, the Imperial War Museum North and the National Football Museum in Manchester, the Bowes Museum in Durham, the Collection Art and Archaeology Museum in Lincoln, Coventry Transport Museum in Coventry, Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery in Shrewsbury and the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in London.

“It seems unlikely that the government would invest more in culture if we left the EU, so the risks of leaving seem high,” Brown added.

As attractions industry sectors weigh up what the potential costs and benefits could be, a spokeswoman for the National Museum Directors Conference said that a 2013 paper found EU funds “provide a structure and scale which an individual member state could not replicate”.

The paper pointed out that the relationship between Europe and Britain as a member state has other benefits for the museum sector, encouraging tourism thanks to the Schengen visa agreement and making recruitment from abroad easier. Major UK museums also often collaborate with European counterparts – partnerships that are made easier because of EU membership.

Brown also called on the museums sector to rise to the occasion of the referendum, which will take place on 23 June 2016, by engaging their communities in the arguments. For example, the People’s History Museum which is holding an exhibition and series of debates about the referendum.

“How do museums act as a forum for discussions about the past, present and future of Britain and Europe?” he said. “What stories can museums tell which provide a historical dimension to the debate? Museums don’t have a great track record of getting involved in such issues – they will need to be nimble if they want to have an impact.”

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With Britain’s government having set a date for the referendum on whether the country should leave the European Union (EU), leading experts have warned UK museums could be worse off in the event of a so-called Brexit.
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