Thursday, 29 November 2007

William Morris Gallery news

Publicly the Council have said they've pulled out of the De Morgan Plan to move the majority of the William Morris collection away from the William Morris Gallery - BUT privately there are rumours that they are still in dialogue with Kate Catleugh. Peter Cormack leaves his post of curator and keeper on December 6th, for those of you who have not met Peter he is truly an inspiring curator, and has worked for 30 years at the gallery. From December 6th, there will be no-one at the gallery with the knowledge or experience to safeguard the collection or to help visitors. There is a new team due to join the gallery - but no one seems to have a long term contract. The new Education and Outreach Officer and Assistant Keeper are both on secondment contracts. The Manager of the Gallery and Museum still seems to be based in Northumberland with no sign of a start date. The interim Keeper at the gallery is apparently from the de Morgan Centre. The entire collection is not catalogued - the council has never invested the time or money to do this - the entire collection is therefore in serious danger. From January 2008 William Morris Gallery and Vestry House Museum will only be open part-time. This is an enormous reduction in access.

This reduction in access seriously jeopardizes the museums and galleries chances of gaining future funding. Funding is most often assessed on access criteria. Staff have been told to do everything possible - at no matter what cost - to book up events for Sundays in January 2008 onwards to boost visitor numbers. These same staff have been under a year of extreme stress because they didn't know what was happening with their jobs - some have lost their jobs and some have been forced to take part-time positions - to then be told 'it doesn't matter about the money' by the Manager of Museums and Galleries has been hard to swallow. The council have applied for a license for wedding ceremonies to be held at Vestry House Museum and William Morris Gallery, they have stated that this should not further reduce opening hours. At the William Morris Gallery this means you'll only be able to get married Monday - Wednesday which is a blow to their income generation plans. Meanwhile in the same council department - the Manager of Museums and Galleries - the person who implement these cuts and restructuring has been promoted to Head of Libraries also. According to the local Guardian, the council has admitted this post was not advertised, that no-one else was considered and that this member of staff jumped 4 civil service grades - breaking their own rules. The department has already been forced to admit that a popular library was closed with 'virtually no consultation' and today the news broke that the borough has admitted the number of library items fell 239,344 between 2005 and March 2007 and that 100,000 + books were destroyed.Petition NewsThe petition will be printed off and presented very soon - we need 60 more signatures to get the petition to 11,000 - so please help... sign if you haven't already and forward if you haven't already. We do believe it will make a difference. See:

How to Help / What to do next:
1. Please write to the people on this page: Please write again if you've done so already3. If possible, please call for the reinstatement of Peter Cormack as Keeper and Curator. 4. If possible, please encourage the council to open their galleries full time.3. If you have written already but have not had a reply or an unsatisfactory response, please fill in this council complaints form. All complaints are recorded and must be responded to. This department is coming under increasing scrutiny and we are all making a difference. We campaigners believe:
That the council's stated aim to save £56,000 by this restructuring and part-time service will not be achieved.
We are increasingly beginning to believe that the council wishes to purposely run down the service as the buildings are valuable real estate.
We also believe that the council are having to spend hundreds of thousands on employing outside consultants to supplement the lack of knowledge within the council. This money would've been better spent on advertising the gallery and museum and keeping experienced staff in post.
The collection is in extreme danger, after next week there will be no-one employed with knowledge or experience in looking after the collection.
Part-time opening hours under values the service and is a dangerous precedent for museums and galleries nationwide.
The reduction in investment and opening hours will run the service down further, and this will eventually lead to the redundancy of the gallery.
Our continued scrutiny of the council is having an effort and must be continued.
There are many ways to increase the gallery's income generation - starting with actually advertising the service locally - the council have not sufficiently explored these routes.
Exhibitions Currently on at Vestry House Museum and William Morris Gallery
1948:2012Vestry House Museum until 28 January.
Zarah Hussain, HandasahWilliam Morris Gallery, private view tonight 29 November 7-8pm, open until 25 January

1 comment:

  1. pleased to see this picked up on the green party blog - please do also check out to find out more about the destruction in Waltham Forest libraries and what people can do about it, updates on past actions and details of actions to come.