Chap 3: ‘Policies, Frameworks, and Legislation: The Conditions Under Which English Museums Operate’ by Sara Selwood and Stuart Davies

Another other key parameter of the public museum environment is policy and legislation, which has not received as much attention in museum studies as it deserves. Two consultants from different backgrounds tackle this topic in Museum Practice: consultants Professor Sara Selwood and Stuart Davies, who have extensive professional experience in the museum sector, fuse the insights of policy studies with an indepth understanding of its traction in the field. Reviewing the regulatory framework erected by the Labour government in the UK in the 1990s and 2000s, which introduced a ‘new cultural framework’ and increased funding, they critically examine the outcomes and lessons of the ‘golden age’ through a series of case studies. They offer a sober assessment. “Money evidently wasn’t everything,” they warn, and “[s]een against its objectives, the effectiveness of recent museums policy initiatives is questionable.” Museums tend to be passive victims of government agency: “It is David and Goliath but worse odds.” Policies and governments change, but in order to “earn the respect of government and be treated more seriously,” museum professionals “must engage more critically with government policy.”


Dr Sara Selwood is an independent cultural analyst and consultant who has worked in museums, galleries and cultural management for many years in various capacities as a curator, director, trustee and academic ( She was formerly Professor of Cultural Policy and Management at City University, London, and is currently an Honorary Professor, Institute of Archaeology, University College London. She edits the journal Cultural Trends and has published widely on the relationship between the expectations of UK cultural policy, its implementation, funding and the publics’ experience of cultural provision. Her books include The Benefits of Public Art: The polemics of permanent art in public places (1995), and The UK Cultural Sector: Profile and policy issues (2001).

Dr Stuart Davies has over 25 years’ experience of working in, and with, the museums, galleries, archives and heritage sectors. He is currently the director of Stuart Davies Associates (SDA which delivers support for museum and galleries, arts organisations, historic houses, heritage sites, historic landscapes, archives, development agencies and local authorities throughout the UK. He worked for several government agencies during the New Labour years, including the Heritage Lottery Fund (1997-2000) and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (2000-2004) and authored the government Task Force report, Renaissance in the Regions report (2001). Stuart was also President of the UK Museums Association (2008-2010).


About mccartco

Conal McCarthy is a former museum professional and academic who has published widely on museum history, theory and practice. He is the Director of the Museum and heritage studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.
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