Slash and burn at the Museum of London
I may be in the USA but I still get word of terrible things going on in the UK. The latest bit of gossip to reach me is the plan to make most of the senior pre-modern curators at the Museum of London redundant.
Now I have a great soft spot for this Museum, and indeed have often taken students there. It has a wonderful Roman collection, and what used to be a state of the art display of Roman London ...now a bit in need of a revamp, but in fact I went to a meeting a year or so ago which was taking soundings about exactly how that should be planned. Anyway now it seems like the revamp is on hold, but even worse the senior curatorial staff are being "let go".
If anyone knows more about this than I do, please let me know.
But two things strike me.
First, a question. Who actually runs the Museum of London. It is in a strange position, being the 'local' museum of the capital ... and so having a world class collection, but geographically limited. Taking a look at the "governors" is a depressing business. I couldn't see anyone who had a professional expertise in archaeology or history, but rather a lot financial types. Now, I am quite sure that in the 'old days' the boards of museums were full of academics, at the expense of anyone with a business brain; but to see a group of people who are entirely from the financial/policy sector does not inspire confidence.
Which leads to the second point. I don't imagine that the 'business community' has any idea why senior, expert curators who are themselves engaged in research are the people who make museums tick -- and make them more than pretty displays. But they sure are, as I have been experiencing these last few weeks in preparing my lectures for Washington -- at the V and A, the BM, the Fitzwilliam and today at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I went to see a wonderful piece of 16th century silverware (with am imperial theme -- on which more later), but ended up being shown, and thinking about, cameos and a marvellous piece of wooden sculpture and medals and much more.And that was because the curators were specialists who knew about the collection and how to develop it.
That is what will be lost at the Museum of London. So make a fuss please.. write to Boris; he should, after all, care about the fate of Roman London. And he appoints half the 'governors'.