Conservation Centre Closes to the Public, Friday 17 Dec 2010

Photo courtesy NML


A great shame. The National Conservation Centre has hosted many excellent exhibitions, mainly photography ones which would otherwise have struggled to find a venue as well as the recent Art Merseywide art exhibition (which closes on Sunday 12 Dec). Good news that Sudley House and the Piermaster’s House are saved, at least for now.

Public Access to Conservation Centre to Close
Government cuts mean venue shuts its doors to the public

Liverpool’s National Conservation Centre will close to visitors as a result of government cuts. The city centre venue will close on Friday 17 December at 5pm.

National Museums Liverpool, which is funded by central government, received a 15% cut to its budget in October. This was on top of a 3.5% earlier this year. Managers have been working to maintain its world class venues and safeguard jobs as much as possible.

After reviewing costs of managing all our buildings, it is no longer possible to afford to keep the National Conservation Centre open as a visitor attraction.

Several staff at the venue are likely to be affected. Managers are working with those people to identify any alternative opportunities within the organisation.

Since opening in 1996, the Whitechapel venue has served a dual role – as a visitor venue and as a place for museum staff to carefully conserve and restore objects. Behind-the-scenes conservation work will continue and will not be affected by the closure of the visitor part of the building, which occupies only 10% of the space.

In better news, the threatened Sudley House and Piermaster’s House at the Albert Dock, will remain open.

Dr David Fleming, Director, National Museums Liverpool, said: “We bitterly regret having to close one of our venues to visitors but this is the harsh reality of government cuts. If you cut public spending there is pain for the public.

“The National Conservation Centre was a very popular venue that staged many fantastic photographic exhibitions and other events over the last 14 years.

“We said that a 15% reduction in our funding would have grave implications for us being able to maintain our world class museums and galleries. We are now seeing the impact in terms of a venue closure, following the loss of a number of posts through a voluntary severance scheme.

“We have been scrutinising every aspect of National Museums Liverpool to make savings and we cannot avoid making decisions like this.

“Despite budget cuts, all our venues will remain free entry so as many people as possible can enjoy the wonderful things we have to offer and we are determined to ride out the funding storm. This is a major reason for keeping open Sudley House and Piermaster’s House.”

‘Reveal – the hidden stories of objects’ – the permanent display at the National Conservation Centre, is to be retained and moved to World Museum for visitors still to enjoy.

This week National Museums Liverpool offered a second voluntary redundancy scheme to staff. A similar scheme over summer saw 20 staff leave. National Museums Liverpool continues to work with unions and staff to manage the impact of cuts.

Dr Fleming added: “The priority is to maintain world class venues for the public and to keep the talented people who run them. The real worry for us is that we fear further government funding cuts in future years. We are taking steps now to make sure National Museums Liverpool survives and thrives in the long term.”

Professor Phil Redmond, Chairman National Museums Liverpool, said: “While this action is regrettable the Board of Trustees endorsed what is a pragmatic solution to a very difficult problem: how do we maintain the best offer we possibly can with reduced resources?

“The National Conservation Centre’s conservation department itself is not in danger and neither is the Museum of Liverpool, but to safeguard these projects we have to make harsh choices elsewhere.”

Many other National Museums Liverpool activities have been cancelled due to cuts, as well as developments due to be funded by outside agencies. The Find Your Talent programme, which involved thousands of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds getting access to culture, was axed in June. Plans for a new Titanic gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum are being scaled down, owing to cuts to funding agencies.  Proposals to redevelop Canning Dock were also abandoned after the announcement that the North West Regional Development Agency was to be abolished.

The cuts do not impact on the opening of the new £72m Museum of Liverpool which is set to open this summer, but its budget for special exhibitions has been reduced significantly.