In unsettling times for National Museums Liverpool, the umbrella organisation for the city's swathe of heritage venues, the government’s pledge to consult with the public on next month's spending cut proposals is potentially the greatest source of comfort.
© Mark Sumner
The group receives 95% of its funding from government sources, and is already considering closing the National Conservation Centre and Piermaster's House as it anticipates cuts of up to 40%. The blueprints for a new Titanic gallery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum have been scaled down, and plans to improve public access to the historic area around two 18th century graving docks at the centre of the World Heritage Site have been abandoned.
This week, though, officials have announced that a petition to survey support for its cause has earned 15,000 signatures and outspoken backing from a number of big names with local connections, including 2000 Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans, members of two chart-topping bands and Neil Buchanan, the host of television show Art Attack.
"It's understandable that the government is trying to save money, but it would be a terrible shame to see National Museums Liverpool take a backwards step from the fabulous path they have been on," said Andy McCluskey, of synth-pop stars Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
OMD were just about to begin their latest reformation when The Zutons released their hugely popular debut album in 2004, and Russ Pritchard issued a sentimental call on behalf of the indie-pop stadium fillers.
"The museums have been an institution in Liverpool since I was young," he reminisced. "I'm gutted they're coming under threat from these cuts. They offer a creative learning experience for all of our young in this city, free of charge, which is something we should cherish. I urge everyone to sign this petition and support our museums in Liverpool."
Art Attack's Buchanan was equally impassioned. "I truly believe that in this high-tech modern age of transient fads and crazes, our museums are one of the few remaining ways in which our people can integrate with and participate in our heritage and culture," he declared.
Eight venues are currently run by NML, including the Walker Art Gallery, the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the World Museum Liverpool, which was founded by the group in 1851. The £72 million Museum of Liverpool will be added to the list when it opens next year, and the city is currently enjoying a typically vibrant Biennial.
"It's superb to get backing for our petition from people in the public eye who care about culture and what it means to the city," observed NML Director David Fleming, who said visitors had been "quick to get behind us". "They realise that the museums and galleries they love are under serious threat."
See the petition here.
Read our Artist's Statement with Wolfgang Tillmans at the Walker Art Gallery. Show continues until December 12 2010. The Liverpool Biennial continues until November 18.