Estelle Morris kicked off Museums and Galleries Month by stressing the importance museums have in their communities. © 24 Hour Museum
With an estimated 2000 events taking place across the country this May, 2004’s Museums and Galleries Month (MGM) has been praised as ‘a great success’ by its organisers.
This year’s MGM took ‘Travel and the Art of Travelling’ as its theme to coincide with the bicentenary of the steam engine, a decision which caught the imaginations of curators nationwide.
Attractions ranged from a Roman army marching on Kettering, a Songs of the Sea workshop in Newcastle, and even a display of items confiscated by HM Customs at Belfast Airport to highlight the issue of extinction.
The response to the theme, which saw a rise of 132% in the number of visitors to Truro’s Royal Cornwall Museum in the first two weeks of May, clearly delighted Loyd Grossman and Charles Saumarez Smith, Co-Chairmen of Museums and Galleries Month.
In a joint statement they said: “This year Museums and Galleries Month has made a real difference to museums and galleries around the country, and the thousands of people who have enjoyed special events. MGM is now well established as one of the UK’s major cultural celebrations.”
Project Ability in Glasgow organised a special show for MGM 2004. This photo shows Deer by Robert Reddick.
As well as the adaptability of the theme, an increase in sponsorship and advertising clearly raised the profile of MGM 2004 compared to its predecessors.
Arts Minister Estelle Morris wrote to all English MPs urging them to visit museums and galleries, additional funding was made available from the Department for Education and Skills while the Eurostar Group, marking its own 10th anniversary, provided a welcome source of sponsorship.
Awareness of the month was also raised by increasing promotion in new areas, such as posters in railway stations, leaflets in motorway service stations and adverts on Classic FM. As a result 81% of museums said MGM 2004 went well for them while 66% said they got media coverage.
Innovation did not simply stop with interpreting the MGM theme. The newly established CyMAL (Museums Libraries Archives Council Wales) supported a series of signed tours for the deaf at Plas Newydd Llangollen. Meanwhile some 60 smaller museums and galleries in London combined to create a number of web-based trails encouraging visitors to discover unusual aspects of the capital.
Plans are already afoot for MGM 2005, which organisers hope will attract even more museums than in 2004. The theme for next year will be ‘Objects of Desire: the art of collecting’. However, some museums and galleries may choose to pursue themes relating to national celebrations, such as the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
For further information about the run-up to MGM 2005, visit the website - www.may2005.org.uk