THE PRESS today launches a campaign to safeguard the future of one of York’s biggest and most-treasured attractions.
The National Railway Museum or one of its two sister museums in the north will “almost certainly” close if feared funding cuts are confirmed, it was announced yesterday.
Our “Save The NRM” campaign will fight to secure the future of the museum, one of the most-respected in Britain and an integral part of York’s economic and cultural sectors.
Tourism, political and business leaders have already backed the campaign. York Central MP Hugh Bayley said closure of the NRM should be unthinkable.
The campaign has been launched in the wake of yesterday’s announcement by Ian Blatchford, director of the NRM’s parent organisation, the Science Museum Group.
Mr Blatchford said that as well as big cuts to the Science Museum in London, one of its attractions in York, Manchester, or Bradford would “almost certainly” have to go, due to the prospect of a further ten per cent funding cut.
The group runs the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and and Bradford’s National Media Museum, as well as the NRM.
Mr Blatchford said the group had endured 25 per cent cuts in real terms in the past four years and a further ten per cent cut could mean the £2 million annual deficit rising to about £6 million, he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.
Asked if that would mean a museum closing, he said: “I have to say, with a very heavy heart, it really does.
“We have done lots of boring and sensible things, awful things like cutting staff, procurement, raising more money.
“But cuts of that level bite really deep into our flesh so it means not only big cuts in the Science Museum in London, but one of our three great northern museums almost certainly would also have to close.”
Asked which museum was most likely to shut, he said: “It is a very difficult question to answer because we are having that discussion at the moment.
“You are comparing three great cities, York, Bradford and Manchester, very different cities with different economies and different universities. We just haven’t decided yet.”
National museums do not charge for admission and currently cannot due to Government policy, but Mr Blatchford said he was in talks with the Government about the possibility of reinstating entry fees.
Mr Blatchford said in a later statement that the Science Museum Group was vital in helping to “inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to drive the economy, showcase the best of British research for the British public and help them understand the complexities of modern research”.
He said: “If an additional ten per cent cut is made when the spending review is announced at the end of this month, there would be little choice other than to close one of our museums.”
He said he would rather have “three world class museums than four mediocre museums”.
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of the Spending Review and said: “This is an operational matter for the Science Museum Group who has to address a large projected operating deficit from 2014 onwards and is assessing a range of options to address this situation.”