David Lammy praised UK museums for their work commemorating the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. © 24 Hour Museum
Culture Minister David Lammy was at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green on the evening of April 30 to launch the world’s biggest celebration of museums and galleries, Museums and Galleries Month (MGM) 2007.
Running throughout May 2007, the unique festival of events, exhibitions and other activities involves museums and galleries right across the UK and is organised by the charity, the Campaign for Museums.
This year’s MGM theme ‘People: Who Are We?’ focuses on how people can find out more about themselves, their communities and their personal heritage through museums and galleries.
“I am pleased that the theme of this year’s Museums and Galleries Month is People – who are we? because it is our shared history that shapes our heritage,” said the Minister.
“It is our heritage that gives richness and depth to our multi-cultural society. But our island story is not always an easy one to read. There is pain and frustration too.”
The Minister congratulates Loyd Grossman, Chair of Museums and Galleries Month; Diane Lees, Director of the Museum of Childhood; and Liz Mackenzie, co-chair of MGM. © 24 Hour Museum
“But museums and galleries are the perfect medium to express and discuss it in a non-political and non-threatening way. They provide the means to tell these tales to a new generation and explain them in way which has real meaning.”
The Minister was welcomed to the event by the Campaign for Museums' Chair of Trustees, Loyd Grossman, who began by alluding to the lively debate currently underway about the value of museums and what they provide, as well as about the funding they need – especially in the run up to a government comprehensive spending review.
“I think that wherever you look,” he said, “whether it’s a national museum, a local museum, a university museum or a regional museum – really incredible things are being done and astonishing public value is being delivered, as the minister knows, for a trifling sum of public money.”
“Even though the shadow of the comprehensive spending review hangs over us, we continue to outperform most other public sector bodies.”
Guests at the launch explore the Museum of Childhood - part of the V&A Museum. © 24 Hour Museum
Mr Lammy responded by re-assuring the gathered sector professionals that he valued the contribution museums and galleries continue to make to the fabric of the nation and by reiterating his support for this year’s MGM theme.
“I want to say in relation to the spending review and in relation to the debate that will take place over the coming days and weeks that I believe the business of people and who we are is absolutely central to policy debates in this country,” he said.
“There is nobody who can tell me that our museums and galleries are not central to that discussion and when we think about British-ness and we talk about our shared values it is very much the contribution that you are making.”
“It's important we build on success and this part of our economy is a success story,” he added, “and it is my sincere hope that my party understand that and build on that success over the coming months.”
The Museum of Childhood re-opened in December 2006 after a £8.2 million rebuild. © 24 Hour Museum
MGM 2007 is perhaps a timely showcase of the achievements of the sector, whilst at the same time offering a chance for people across the UK to discover and rediscover the delights and treasures of their local museum.
Events lined up for the month vary from Grayson Perry debating whether culture or class are important at the National Portrait Gallery, to a ‘People’s Show’ at Ceridigion Museum in Wales that promises to give local people the chance to display their own collections, which include everything from drainpipes to soap.
As well as the vast array of themed events and exhibitions, hundreds of museums across the country are also gearing up to open well into the night later in the month, for the international ‘Night of the Museum’ celebration – now a weekend, Museums at Night, on the weekend of May 19.
Events include screenings of the hit film Night at the Museum in venues as diverse as the Pontypool Museum and the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery.