Manchester’s museums have won approximately £2 million from the Arts Council England (ACE) despite many regional museums being stripped of government support.
The money will be used to expand Manchester University’s volunteer training programme for the long-term unemployed.
The purpose of the volunteer programme is to “get people back into work”.
University spokesman, Tim Manley says the programme will help the ill, disabled and long-term unemployed develop their “people and communication skills” as part of the University’s 2015 vision commitment to community outreach.
Whilst many students do volunteer for the museum and galleries, the core of the Partnership’s 150 volunteers are members of the local community. Often, these people are disadvantaged through disability or a lack of job history.
Recruiting more volunteers will make galleries more accessible through tours and visitor interaction and forms part the Manchester 2015 vision of increasing University attractions visitor numbers to 1 million per year. Currently the Partnership receives 850,000 visitors a year.
Dame Nancy Rothwell has praised ACE’s Renaissance Major Partners scheme for recognizing the “regional and national excellence” of The Manchester Museums Partnership, recipients of the grant. The money will be shared between The Manchester Museum, The Whitworth Gallery and Manchester City Galleries, which comprise the partnership. This investment is particularly significant against a backdrop of major cutbacks to arts and culture funding. Only 16 of the 29 organisations that applied won grants.
Yet Manley was keen to emphasise that “it’s not all new money”. Some of the grant comes from funds already promised to regional museums under the soon to be defunct Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
Any museums that missed out on this three-year stream will receive a single year of transitional funding before central government support is cut off for good.
This change forms part of the government’s quango cutback, and includes a reduction in the amount of money available, which now stands at £20 million. The biggest loser in this policy is Museums Sheffield, which has described as being “bitterly disappointed” at the news by its Chief Executive, Nick Dodds.
Manchester’s sum, yet to be finalised, has already been allocated to salaries for staff supporting access to more of the collections held by the partnership.
Besides the volunteer programme, two other accessibility and outreach programmes include a sensory programme to interest babies in art and arts lessons and tours for older people.