SHEFFIELD tourism ambassador and natural history expert Professor Ian Rotherham has told of the ‘hidden damage’ he believes will result to the city’s museums after losing a major funding bid to the Arts Council.
Museums Sheffield was unsuccessful in its application for £4.2 million over the next three years and may now have to axe up to 45 of its 107 staff.
Major touring exhibitions will also end as a result and education work with schools will be hugely scaled down.
Prof Rotherham, an academic at Sheffield Hallam University who used to work at Weston Park Museum for a decade in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said: “Most people have so far voiced concerns about the ‘Disney’ side of the museums – the part the public gets to see.
“But the decision not to provide more Arts Council funding causes a much bigger issue than people realise.
“Behind a serious museum, there is the curation side, experts who carry out research to provide interpretation for exhibitions, plus Weston Park has its natural history side.”
Prof Rotherham said Weston Park Museum also has experts who look after plants, animal and fossil specimens - and a weather station.
“Loss of Arts Council funding and consequential loss of jobs will have a major impact on behind-the-scenes work.
“There are three times as many behind-the-scenes staff as those the public sees.”
Prof Rotherham said Museums Sheffield was ‘already down to bare bones’ in terms of staff.
He added: “There will also be an effect on Sheffield as a tourism destination.
“A large city needs to have serious museums. Sheffield’s reputation will be in tatters if they have to be downgraded.”
Museums Sheffield has received a small amount of Arts Council cash to proceed with plans to mark the Olympics .
And it is also hoping for ‘transition’ cash to fund advertised events in spring and summer.
A new bid for a smaller amount of long-term Arts Council cash has been made.
■ Wild Side with Ian Rotherham: see page 20.