A consultation is underway over the future of the status of five key museums in Greece (“Museums set to go it alone under new law“, ekathimerini.com 17 January 2023). There are concerns that these key museums, including the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the Herakleion Museum, will be expected to act more independently and be responsible for part of their revenue creation. Some have suggested that the move will prepare the way for some future privatisation and will see a break with the rest of the Archaeological Service.
Our report on the contribution of the heritage sector to society and the economy in the south east and the east of England was published today.
This report reviews the contribution of heritage to the region defined by the counties of Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. It identifies four key themes that link the heritage in the region: coastal defence; Christian heritage; historic houses; and historic landscapes and natural heritage. The region contains one UNESCO World Heritage Site at Canterbury. Heritage is supported by the development of several Heritage Action Zones and High Street Heritage Action Zones across the four counties.
Heritage features in the strategies for the two regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), as well as countywide and local authority heritage and cultural strategies. The report identifies examples of good practice.
Several research themes have been identified that link to the interests of the three sponsoring universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Kent. Coastal heritage across the four counties is facing the threat of the climate crisis and assets are being lost due to coastal erosion. The impact of rising sea levels is also assessed. Heritage and cultural property crime affects the sustainability of heritage and cultural property across the region. Five case studies are presented: damage to churches, including lead roof theft; illegal metal-detecting and the disposal of finds; architectural theft; vandalism; and the use of technology to facilitate crime against heritage assets. The third research theme relates to the way that the DCI sector works with heritage organisation to record and interpret assets. The development of a county based Digital Heritage Strategy for Suffolk is highlighted.
The economic benefits of heritage are explored through the award of National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grants to heritage projects. Between 2013 and 2020 the EARC region was awarded over £190 million for heritage projects by NLHF. In addition, the report explores visitor trends and identifies the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism economy for the region. Historic England estimates that the heritage sector accounted for 140,000 jobs in the south east, and eastern England in 2019.
The social benefits of heritage align with the UK Government’s Levelling-Up agenda. This is explored through a number of sub-themes: health and well-being; pride in place; digital connectivity; education and skills.
The report concludes with a reflection on the challenges facing heritage across the region. This includes encouraging public participation with museums and archives.
Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.
Press release: New report highlights the contribution of heritage to the EARC region, 10 August 2022 <https://easternarc.ac.uk/news/earc-report-identifies-the-economic-and-social-contribution-of-heritage-to-the-south-east-and-east-of-england/>
The ALVA figures for 2021 allow us to gain a glimpse of visit numbers across the heritage sector. Visitor numbers in London have not bounced back; indeed, they are marginally down on 2020. Is this due to the lack of visitors from outside the UK? Are members of the public concerned about visiting such venues where it is not possible to maintain social distancing?
Such a dramatic drop in numbers (from 36.6 million in 2019 to 7.7 million in 2021) will have an impact on income in terms of special exhibitions, retail outlets and catering. What is not clear is if this will be reflected in the numbers retaining membership of friends’ organisations.
It is being reported that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will be dropping the name ‘Sackler’ on galleries and exhibits (“New York’s Met museum to remove Sackler name from exhibits“, BBC News, December 9, 2021).
“The seven exhibition spaces bearing the Sackler name include a wing housing the famous Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian temple commissioned by the province’s Roman governor.”
Does this mean that other galleries in the museum will be renamed?
The latest figures from the Hellenic Statistical Service have revealed the major impact on visitor numbers to museums and archaeological sites in Greece to the end of November 2020. I have already comments on the dramatic fall of visitors (museums; archaeological sites) and the picture continues to be bleak: 3.7 million visitors (to the end of November 2020) compared to 19.5 million visitors in 2019. However, the telling figure comes from ticket receipts: 21.1 million Euros (to the end of November 2020) compared to 130.9 million Euros in 2019. This is a significant loss of budget for the protection and conservation of heritage in Greece.
The Hellenic Statistical Service released the latest visitor numbers for museums in Greece today (31 March 2021). Although the numbers are only available up to the end of September 2020, they show a drop of 79.5% due to the pandemic. The Archaeological Museum in Herakleion showed a drop of over 90 per cent. The January-September comparison between 2019 and 2020 shows the impact: a fall from 4.7 million visitors to 976,805. (In 2019 there were 5.8 million visitors to museums in Greece.) This is reflected in a decrease of ticket sales of 82 per cent: from 19.2 million Euros in 2019 to 3.4 million Euros in 2020.
The publication of the ALVA visitor figures for museums in London demonstrates the impact of COVID restrictions. A selection of 11 museums in London received over 36.6 million visitors in 2019, reduced to 8.2 million in 2020. This represents lost income that will need to be addressed by the sector.
The release of ALVA visitor figures have shown the impact of the pandemic on visitors to Oxford University Museums. The 3.3 million visitors in 2019 dropped to 887,516 in 2020. (This is still more than the number of visitors to University of Cambridge Museums.)
The ALVA figures for 2020 have shown the impact of the pandemic on museum visitors through the figures for the University of Cambridge Museums. The total number of visitors has dropped from 1.3 million in 2019 to 471,408 in 2020. However if you remove the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from the figures this leaves 277,918 visitors to all the other locations.
As part of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence draws near, two US members of Congress have passed a resolution calling on the UK Government to return the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece (“Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney & Bilirakis Reintroduce Resolution Calling on the U.K. to Return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece“, 18 March 2021).
Congressman Gus Bilirakis said:
“The Parthenon Marbles were made by the citizens of Athens under the direction of renowned artist Phidias to celebrate the pride and majesty of the City of Athens. To not house and view these citizen contributions in the city they were originally intended does a disservice not only to the people of Athens, but also to the civilization that paved the path for modern democracy and freedom.”
The appeal to the original intention of the sculptor is a strong one. These sculptures were an integral part of a building, incidentally now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Akropolis.
Is now the time for these sculptures to be returned to Athens so that they can be displayed in line of sight of the Parthenon?