Seminar on The Future of Civic Museums: A Think Piece - update

10 January 2019

Taking place at the V&A, London, on Friday 25 January, 10.30am - 4.30pm

The English Civic Museums Network (ECMN), supported by the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC), is organising a seminar at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, on Friday 25 January 2019 to discuss a new report published in July 2018 - The Future of Civic Museums: A Think Piece.

The think piece, authored by Peter Latchford of Black Radley Ltd, was commissioned to examine the particular qualities, value and importance of civic museums, identify the current challenges they face and explore what they should do to thrive and become more relevant and resilient in the future. Latchford argues that to survive, civic museums must see themselves as part of the wider ecology that surrounds them, building a sense of place, rather than “caring for collections in splendid isolation”. The full report can be downloaded here:

The seminar will bring together key stakeholders from both inside and outside the cultural sector, as well as a wider audience to debate the purpose of civic museums, as articulated by Latchford, and set an agenda for how to take forward the recommendations of the think piece. The main outcomes the seminar seeks to achieve are:

  • The opportunity to develop ideas to research how we can take forward the value of civic museums;
  • To bring together and share a sense of common purpose amongst all civic museums, especially the wider group who aren't able to engage as regularly as they would like;
  • To influence funders, politicians, stakeholders and reinforce the importance and value civic museums have to help to deliver other outcomes and agendas.

ECMN member and NMDC Vice-Chair Iain Watson, Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM), said: “Museums are significant civic institutions, and they can also play an increasingly important role in civil society. Peter Latchford's report provides challenges to museums and their funders. It highlights some uncomfortable truths and suggests how we can adapt to meet the changing needs of society.”

Peter Latchford, Chief Executive of Black Radley and author of the report, said: “Civic museums occupy a distinctive space in the life of the UK. Typically, they are deeply embedded in a place, whilst bringing a global perspective to the way that place’s story is told. By revealing the past, they can help make sense of the present, and shape the future. They have the potential to bridge the gap between the state and the community, to be catalysts of a new enlightenment.  If a wide range of public ills are to be prevented rather than just cured, society needs civic museums individually and collectively to reach this potential.”

The format for the day will incorporate a series of presentations in the morning with a round table and workshop sessions. Confirmed speakers are:

Dr Tristram Hunt, Director - V&A
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive – RSA
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson CBE – Chair, Local Government Association, Culture and Sport Committee
Andrew Barnett, Director - UK Branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive – Heritage Lottery Fund
Peter Latchford, Chief Executive – Black Radley
Kate Bellamy - Arts Council England

The event is scheduled to take place from 10am (registration, formal start 10.30am) until 4.30pm. The event is free to attend, but booking is essential here or contact Cheryl McCarrick on

Filming of key note speakers may take place on the day for sharing online afterwards and there will be a post event press release.