The Government White Paper on Heritage Protection for the 21st Century published in 2007 proposed the first widespread overhaul of the heritage protection system in England and Wales for almost 25 years. However, it was to be December 2017 before the next significant heritage policy initiative was to be announced when the then Department of Culture, Media and Sport issued a Heritage Statement, which set out government priorities for heritage and sought to link the heritage agenda to wider agendas and strategies for industry, regeneration and placemaking, for skills and for the environment. In December 2018, DCMS published a Heritage Statement: One Year On, which charted the progress that had been made and built on the Government White Paper on Culture (see chapters 1.1. and 2.1). The focus is primarily on England, noting in particular developments in placemaking, making heritage available to everyone and on the sustainability and resilience of the sector.
Historic England is a government non-departmental public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s historic environment. Its official name is the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England and until 2015 it was commonly known as English Heritage, when its functions were divided and English Heritage became a separate charity (see below). Among the priorities in Historic England’s Corporate Plan 2019-22: Building the future are protecting historic places, expanding the digital availability of heritage assets and bringing heritage into mainstream life. Historic England’s flagship project, Heritage Action Zones, seeks to unlock the untapped potential in areas rich in uncelebrated heritage and re-energising historic places for the benefit of residents, and to attract tourists, businesses, investors and create economic growth. As part of this, the Government has initiated a GB£ 95million scheme to regenerate high streets by encouraging arts, cultural and community organisations to transform underused or disused buildings and sites into creative and cultural spaces and other uses as a contribution to wider urban improvements. Historic England is also undertaking research on the development of economic valuation techniques to better understand the value attributed to the heritage.
English Heritage has responsibility for the care and conservation of more than 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites and seeks to be financially independent by 2022-23. It received a one-off GB£ 80 million from Government when it was split into two, and established as a charity.
The National Trust conserves and maintains for public access some 330 historic houses, parks and gardens and their collections, as well as 775 miles of coastline and 248,000 hectares of land. It is funded through public membership with over five million members and more than 60,000 volunteers in 2017-18.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) helps people protect and conserve the built historic environment through training schemes, advice, research and grants. It trains architects and building craftspeople to restore buildings with sensitivity and has a statutory role as adviser to local planning authorities.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund provides grants for any type of heritage project from GB£ 3,000 to GB£ five million. Funding decisions for these have been devolved to committees/senior staff in Wales, and three regions in England (as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland). Awards above GB£ five million are decided by its Board of Trustees through competition. There is a new focus on nature, communities and access to the heritage. In conjunction with Arts Council England it is funding the Great Place Scheme, capitalizing on local physical and cultural assets to help put culture at the heart of communities (see chapter 2.7).
Recent years have proved a difficult period for local museums. Faced by a reduction of more than 40% in their funding allocation from central government, local authorities have adopted various measures to save money on their museum and gallery services, including closing museums or reducing opening hours, reducing staff levels, increasing charges for services or merging with other local government services. In a few instances local councils have even sold museum items at auctions, which provoked heritage bodies and ACE to warn they will no longer be prepared to co-operate with them.
In 2017 DCMS published The Mendoza Review: an independent review of museums in England, many of whose recommendations were subsequently published in a Strategic review of DCMS-sponsored museums. The latter examined the 15 arms-length museums and the British Library to examine their functions, effectiveness, efficiency and accountability in the context of the wider-ranging Mendoza Review. The Strategic Review confirmed that DCMS would ask these bodies to contribute to a Partnership Framework to ensure their expertise is shared across England and that access to the national collections is increased beyond their premises. There were more than 47 million visits to the national museums in 2016/17, including over 22 million from overseas, and in the same year the 16 made loans to more than 4,000 venues, 1,356 of which were in the UK. Together these national bodies received GB£ 981.6 million in 2016/17 of which GB£ 437 million was grant aid from DCMS. The Strategic review called on them to make year on year savings of 1%.
Arts Council England supports museums through grants and, for the first time, 66 museums were included in its list of National Portfolio Organisations that are receiving multi-year funding between 2018-2022. The Designation Scheme, administered by ACE, exists to recognise pre-eminent cultural collections of national and international importance and ensure they are safeguarded. Since 1997 the scheme has identified the foremost collections held by non-national museums, libraries and archives across England. In 2016 ACE published a review of the scheme, Pearls and Wisdom, setting out its future and highlighting case studies. Other schemes relating to museums, galleries and the heritage administered by ACE are the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, whereby donations of cultural objects are accepted for the nation, instead of tax duties payable on the death of the owner (see chapter 4.1.4), and the Reviewing Committee of the Export of Works of Arts and Objects of Cultural Value, which makes judgements on what objects purchased for overseas should be saved for the nation by delaying export for six months to provide an opportunity to raise sufficient funds to acquire them (see chapter 4.2.2). A Government Indemnity Scheme provides cost-free indemnity cover to non-national museums and galleries in the UK borrowing art/cultural objects for exhibition to protect items from loss or damage while on short or long-term loan. In offering this alternative to the high cost of commercial insurance, the intention is to enable organisations to display artworks that might not otherwise have been shown. The Scheme does not cover national museums and galleries.
The Art Fund is a charity that can provide museums or galleries with funds for acquisitions and support towards the exhibition and touring of art, as well as support for the training and development of curators. It campaigns and administers public appeals when a significant work of art is threatened by export and it promotes museums and galleries through the National Art Pass admission discount scheme.
CyMal: Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales, established in 2004 as a policy division of the Welsh Government, is responsible for furthering the development of local museums, archives and library services in Wales. In 2010, the Welsh Government launched A Museums Strategy for Wales, its first, which focused on three aims for 2010-2015: museums for everyone, a collection for the nation and working effectively.