The Museums Association’s policy officer Alistair Brown told the meeting that the decision represented both an emotional and operational blow to museums, with EU nationals in roles as diverse as museum directors, Egyptologists, and front of house staff. He added that the British Museum believed that up to 50% of its workforce could be affected by the EU referendum decision.
Following a Brexit round table with “the great and the good” of the museums world, he said it was clear that there was “a long list of challenges and a short list of opportunities”.
Other challenges included the eventual loss of European funding for museums and other heritage organisations. Some of this funding was not from obvious sources: for example farm museums that draw on CAP funds. There was “no guarantee” that government would replace this money on a like-for-like basis.
Brown also said current arrangements for moving artefacts between countries could be affected by the Brexit decision.
He went on to say that museums had an important role to play in addressing the many societal divisions exposed by Brexit. Museums needed to have a greater “social impact” with work more focused in the communities in which they were based, he added. They should do more to celebrate difference, he suggested, and be less “rose-tinted” about the past.
Addressing perceived tourism benefits from a weaker pound, Brown said that there had in fact been a 2% decrease in museum footfall numbers over the summer. He said that while the reasons for this weren’t entirely clear, future travel restrictions could mitigate the attractions of a favourable exchange rate.
Museums Association Brexit briefing (Pdf)