Just months after the Imperial War Museum Lambeth was re-opened by Prime Minister David Cameron to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One and in the week of Remembrance Sunday and the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month commemoration of the end of World War One, Trade Union Prospect has launched a petition aimed at reversing the threat to jobs and services brought about by the need to remove a £4 million deficit which was itself is the result of a cut in grant aid from the UK Government to the Imperial War Museum Group.
The petition is in response to a “change programme” developed by the organisation and revealed by the Trade Union, which includes various potential cost saving measures, the most significant of which is the closure of the Imperial War Museum Library. The IWM Library collection has been in develoment since 1917 and consists of primary and secondary printed sources which provide vital context and additional information about the Museum’s other archive collections as well as information for researchers in their own right.
Other services under threat across the Imperial War Museums branches which also includes the sites at Duxford, HMS Belfast and the Imperial War Museum North, include the education programme and as many as 80 jobs. The Education service may be another victim of Government Policy, this time of changes to the National Curriculum.
In a comment to the Bookseller magazine a spokesperson for the Imperial War Museum said
“The change programme seeks to ensure IWM can continue to respond to challenges and opportunities, build on our successes to date, improve and update ways of working across the organisation and reduce IWM’s net expenditure by £4million per annum to account for changes to funding and increases in pension contributions. IWM aims to achieve the expenditure change by reducing costs and increasing our income through further commercial activity.”
The spokesperson added: “The consultation period for the organisational restructuring element of IWM’s change programme has now begun. We are working closely with those who may be affected by the change proposals and will continue to do so until the end of the year. Any announcements regarding changes at IWM will be made early next year (2015).”
People signing the petition include the former Director General of the IWM Alan Borg who commented “As a former Director General of the Museum I am horrified by the suggestion that the Library might be closed and dispersed.”
Another published military historian who contacted thePipeLine said simply “stunned”.
The threat to the some of the Imperial War Museum’s most important services in research and education will leave many fears for the future of the integrity of the Museum. The risk is that with a diminishing audience development role and particularly a diminishing research role, the Museum will become little more than a front of house display of nicely lit big boys toys with a cafe and shop to maximise commercial opportunities.
It is likely that the current situation will leave a bitter taste as people recall Prime Minister David Cameron’s words at the re-opening of the Lambeth site in July after a £40 million refurbishment including a redesign of the Atrium by Foster and Partners.
Mr Cameron said
“When I launched our plans for the First World War centenary, I said that the renovated Imperial War Museum would be the centrepiece of our commemorations.
And what a fitting centrepiece this is – a national focal point in which we can all take great pride.”
Critics of the Government will argue that if Prospect are correct, it will become a national focal point diminished by the self same Government Politicians who are happy to stand and be photographed at the Cenotaph and the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” installation at the Tower of London and quote the work of the historians who use the Library and applaud the education staff who bring the events of the past alive with relevance to future generations.