What is Museum Development?

Museum Development support includes advice, guidance, training, programmes and the administration of small grants for museums. The focus of the support is museums participating in or working towards Accreditation, the UK industry standard, which are not in receipt of funding directly from government (national museums) or Arts Council England (National Portfolio Organisations). The museums supported by Museum Development range from small heritage sites run by volunteers, to specialist university museums, local authority services with encyclopedic collections, historic houses, art galleries and independent museums.

The aim of these interventions is to help museums to strengthen their governance, collections management, learning and engagement activities, workforce and commercial operations to increase the quality of their work and their relevance to the communities they serve.

How is Museum Development funded?

Arts Council England, Museums Galleries Scotland, the Welsh Government (Museums, Libraries and Archives Division), and Northern Ireland Museums Council invest in Museum Development. There are 12 programmes across the UK comprised of one in each of the 9 English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Museum Development programme in England is delivered in the nine regions by a Museum Development provider or host organisation. The ‘host’ is usually a large museum based in that region.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, museum development is not out-sourced the way it is in England. Museum Development is delivered directly by the three strategic agencies.

What is the Museum Development UK (MDUK)?

Museum Development UK (MDUK) is a network of all national Museum Development providers and practitioners in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

MDUK’s overarching goal is to support diverse, inclusive and innovative museums that welcome people from all backgrounds. Together it creates a thriving museum sector by raising standards, driving excellence and supporting people working in museums.

MDUK is an advocate for the impact our programmes and activities have on the museum sector at a national level and for the needs of museums. MDUK also provides the practitioners working in museum development teams with a forum for discussion, debate, sharing information and collaboration. As a network we:

  • champion and demonstrate the unique value of museums and the role they contribute to communities, audiences and the wider public.
  • help museums to become resilient.
  • facilitate collaborative working and shared best practice.
  • support excellence, innovation, partnerships and organisational sustainability across the sector.
  • advocate for the sector and provide a source of national benchmarking.
  • enable museums to build their capacity to meet the diverse needs of the communities they serve.
  • collaborate to maximise investment from our funders.

Museum Development England also works collaboratively to maximise the investment from Arts Council England and other key funders. This includes the adoption of a shared:

  • evaluation framework
  • approach to business sustainability
  • approach to leadership development
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training
  • and key performance indicators to demonstrate consistent national impact data.

What does the MDUK do?

MDUK was established to ensure that that museum development practitioners are not isolated in their roles and are able to share practice and feel part of a national change programme.

The MDUK brings together Museum Development providers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and allows for a shared understanding of the national picture.

This is made possible through sector data collection, which not only provides key statistics on the operational context of the Museum Accreditation Scheme, but also offers a clear demonstration of the collective social and economic value of museums in key areas such as volunteering and visitor spend in the local economy.

This sector information enables MDUK to promote and influence policy and funders to ensure the whole of the museum sector is represented when key issues are discussed at a local, regional or national level.

Due to the nature of our work, museum development teams have a practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by museums. MDUK seeks to support the sector in demonstrating the unique value and contribution of museums of all shapes and sizes to their communities, their audiences and the wider public.

MDUK works closely with national and regional bodies in order to assist the effective promotion, targeting and development of the services they are seeking to deliver.

How is the MDUK managed?

Museum Development UK is managed by a committee made up of senior managers from each nation. The committee meets each quarter to:

  • Plan alignment of regional activity to national objectives
  • Collaborate on new programme ideas
  • Coordinate national projects and programmes
  • Sharing good practice and emerging ideas

MDUK contracts a Coordinator to act as a central point of contact for museum development teams, funders, partners and stakeholders.

How does MDUK support museum development teams?

MDUK represents the workforce that delivers support to museums across the United Kingdom. This workforce includes Museum Development Officers (MDOs), freelance contractors and other practitioners who deliver specific services to museums such as conservation and collection care, audience development, workforce development, volunteering and digital engagement and Museum Accreditation advice.

Each museum development team has a different structure to respond to the priority needs of the museums they serve.

MDUK delivers training and an annual conference, which is supported by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), hosted the day before the national AIM conference in June. MDUK also coordinates national communications to share news and information that is relevant to MDOs.