Agenda item

Museum Update Report - October 2018 - October 2019

The Management Committee are asked to accept the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum 12 month review report for the period October 2018 – October 2019 and agree the actions suggested going forward in this report.


The Museum Manager presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to the Committee and a copy of which appears as Appendix A to these minutes in the Minute Book. The report provided an update on activity in relation to the Museum for the period October 2018 – October 2019.


The Museum Manager drew the Committee’s attention to four major projects:


The exhibition in Southampton of ‘Beyond the Brotherhood: The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy’ on which the Russell-Cotes had worked in partnership with Southampton City Art Gallery with external funding. The Museum Manager highlighted the importance of achieving GIS for this exhibition, as this had enabled the insurance costs to be met. The exhibition was due to transfer to the Russell-Cotes during Spring 2020. The Committee was also informed of the centenary exhibition of Bournemouth Arts Club.


Reinterpretation and Redisplay: Work had started in April 2019, focusing on the Mikado, Red and Yellow Rooms. Funding for this work had been kickstarted by a £6,000 initial contribution from the Mayor’s Fund. The work was subject to a tight timescale, to be completed in 2020.


Museum Accreditation: It was noted that work to maintain accreditation would require a number of policies and plans to be signed off by the Committee prior to submission in February 2021.


Governance Arrangements: A major review was now underway, following the decision of the Committee in 2019 to support the move to full independence. This was the subject of a separate update report on the agenda.


The report also gave a summary of visitor numbers and performance. Income targets for 2019 in relation to admissions and the café were on target, and the shop was performing better than expected. The fluctuation in visitor numbers between 2015 and 2019 was attributed to a number of factors, including particular exhibitions, marketing, price changes, and seasonal variation (the impact of good weather).


The Committee discussed opportunities in the short term to attract more visitors to the café. It was noted that the café was no longer the driver it had been under the previous operator. There was general agreement that the café’s current location was not ideal and was perceived to be accessible only to those visiting the museum as well. The Committee discussed the feasibility of relocating to the ground floor and providing an outdoor pop-up facility with seating in the garden. The Museum Manager explained that unfortunately there was no easy solution or available resource to make short term changes to the internal layout of the building. The use of the outside area had been previously explored but not progressed for various reasons of viability. The Committee noted that a wholescale reconfiguration of the museum would require significant investment.


The Committee agreed that a spatial assessment of the building would assist the development of a longer-term strategic plan for the museum. The Museum Manager explained that the Forward Plan for 2020 – 2024 would enable the museum to refocus and create a more sustainable offer for the future. Members of the Committee raised the following points in discussion:


  • The level of income from the museum in the context of the current  staff base was excellent compared to other museums in Dorset.
  • The expectations of the visiting public had changed considerably over the last few decades.
  • The museum could not accommodate all the facilities it would like to by making small scale changes.
  • Any major development of the museum required a holistic approach.
  • Future plans should not compromise the visitor experience.
  • The Russell Cotes was not built to be museum and there were significant challenges in displaying the collection to its full potential within the confines of a domestic property.
  • The collection itself was vast, eclectic and included high quality individual pieces which warranted national profile in their own right.
  • Relocating some of the collection would require serious consideration, as it could detract from the collection as a whole.
  • There were opportunities to increase the public benefit of the collection through temporary displays and outreach work. Suggestions included loaning items or using facsimile and projection, for display in the public realm in areas of high visibility/footfall, using empty retail units, and holding taster sessions.
  • Successful programming could have a significant impact on visitor numbers, in attracting both new and return visitors. It was noted that the formation of BCP Council facilitated a more balanced offer across the area.
  • It was imperative to apply for significant investment funding once the future direction of the museum was established and an operating framework in place.


The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Culture explained the purpose of the Cultural Enquiry which was underway across the BCP Council area. He also reported that the Council was working to develop a heritage trail and welcomed any suggestions on this from Committee members.


RESOLVED that the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum 12 month review report for the period October 2018 – October 2019 be accepted and the actions suggested going forward in the report be agreed.


Voting - Unanimous



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