Heather Humphreys T.D. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – Launch of Museum Standards Programme for Ireland – National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 4th March 2015
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today to launch this forum on the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland.
I would like to thank the Heritage Council and the National Gallery of Ireland for organising today’s event.
We’re all here today to discuss how we can better facilitate
loans between our National Cultural Institutions and the wider museum sector.
As Michael Starrett can attest, when he first told me about this event, I gave him a very enthusiastic response.
I wholeheartedly believe we should be doing all we can to facilitate loans and improve the mobility of collections in Ireland.
By working together in this way, we can ensure that museums benefit and, crucially, that the public benefits.
Museums represented here today range from National Cultural Institutions like the Chester Beatty Library and National Gallery, to community based museums like Drogheda Museum Millmount and the county museums in my own constituency of Cavan and Monaghan.
The Museum Standards programme first was piloted a number of years ago with just 12 museums involved.
Now there are 58 museums over 61 sites.
This programme sets out to benchmark and promote professional standards regarding “collections in care” and to recognise the achievement of those standards within the Irish museum sector.
I am very happy to say that Monaghan County Museum is one of the stalwarts of the programme.
I understand that it was in the pilot programme along with the National Gallery and both have maintained accreditation status since 2008 and 2007 respectively.
My department provided €133,000 towards the Museum Standards Programme in 2014.
A strong museum infrastructure in Ireland is of benefit to the arts, our tourism, social inclusion and the overall health and well-being of our cities, towns and communities.
As communities become increasingly diverse museums will have a role to play in forging a sense of place and fostering an understanding among new communities of where they now find themselves.
Local museums are wonderful assets.
They are repositories of our national story, they safeguard and promote our heritage and they give visitors a glimpse of what life was like 50, 100 or 1,000 years ago.
They are found across the country and range from large national institutions, supported by the state, to small village museums run entirely by voluntary effort.
I want to recognise the important role Local Authority museums, in particular, can play in allowing our shared histories to be understood by old and new communities.
All of your institutions, both great and small, are to the fore in protecting a huge diversity of Ireland’s culture and heritage
It is internationally recognised that museums have an enormous role to play in the area of social integration. Through education workshops for children, older people and immigrant communities, museums can open their doors and make their collections and their knowledge available in an accessible and creative way.
Collections can be used for learning and afford an important insight into the past.
The diversity and the richness of the collections in our museums up and down the country is difficult to overstate.
Take for example, the Little Museum of Dublin, which tells the remarkable story of our capital city in the 20th Century; the unique Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, which is our only dedicated aviation museum; or closer to home in Cavan, where the County Museum examines the Great Famine in fascinating detail.
My Department provides direct financial support to facilitate the movement and loaning of collections to local and regional Museums through the Mobility of Collections scheme.
The scheme allows local and regional museums to discharge some or all of the costs associated with taking valuable items on loan from our National Cultural Institutions.
I have a great appreciation for the benefits of this scheme, so I was pleased to be in a position to increase the funding from just €10,000 in 2014, to €40,000 this year.
It helps to cover the cost of transportation, insurance and exhibiting the pieces.
Last year, museums in Cavan, Cork, Drogheda, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford benefitted under the scheme.
I understand that the Heritage Council has been in touch with all accredited museums and galleries seeking applications for the 2015, so I would encourage you all to consider applying.
It is essential that museums – both national and local – take an open and collaborative approach to their collections.
As Minister for the Arts, I am often afforded the lucky privilege of getting a behind the scenes peak at some of your facilities.
For example, just the week before last, I was shown around the very impressive storage facility at the National Museum of Ireland Country Life in Castlebar.
There was row upon row of beautiful old pieces of furniture, antique bicycles and old radio sets.
As you are all only too aware, what is on view to the public in any one of your institutions is usually just a small percentage of your overall collection.
This makes the loaning of artefacts, objects and artworks all the more desirable and practical.
Let’s bring these wonderful pieces out of storage and into the light, so they can be enjoyed by all.
Through this forum today I hope practical ideas and reasonable solutions can be arrived upon to increase the movement of collections throughout our museums network.
I would like to again pay tribute to those who have made today possible.
The National Gallery of Ireland, which houses the National Collection of Irish Art and European master paintings, including masterpieces by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Picasso, is constantly evolving and I have no doubt will bring some great ideas to the table today.
In particular I would like to pay tribute to Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery for his support in facilitating this forum.
I would also like to thank the Chairman of the Heritage Council, Conor Newman and the staff of the Heritage Council and the Museums Committee for their dedicated work in the development of this program.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to all in the museum sector for their continued commitment and hard work and wish you every success in your discussions today.