D-Day for museums

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A BUDGET cut which led to opening hours being slashed at Sheffield museums and galleries could be reversed today.

Crunch talks are taking place between Sheffield Council and Museums Sheffield which are set to result in extra funding.

The meeting comes as the trust, which runs the Graves and Millennium Galleries, and Weston Park Museum, revealed it has spent £17,000 on a new website which aims to bring in extra revenue through an online shop and by making it easier for supporters to leave donations.

Today’s meeting will discuss how to implement Labour’s pledge to restore opening hours at Graves Art Gallery – which was threatened with closure but instead had its opening times cut from six to three days. Other museums also had their hours cut.

Eric Hildrew, head of marketing and communications for Museums Sheffield, said: “From our point of view, we’re keen to ensure that any restoration of funding is sustainable and doesn’t lead to the reduced hours situation repeating itself again in nine months’ time.”

Mr Hildrew said the new website was designed to pay for itself and boost the trust’s revenue.

He said: “Our new look website cost £17,000. This was paid for last year, before funding was reduced, and was only possible because we received funding for other marketing costs freed up some core budget to cover it.

“Our digital marketing officer post is now redundant, and I took the business decision a while ago that we needed to invest in an up-to-date website to prepare ourselves for what is clearly going to be a few years of austerity.

“In the long term, online is way cheaper than off-line marketing. Some of the new features – online shop, online donations, better corporate hire promotion, will bring in revenue.

“I’m pleased to say we worked with local start-up business Rckt, so every penny of the website budget has gone back into the local economy.”

Sheffield Council’s old Lib Dem administration reduced the Museums Sheffield’s £2.3 million annual budget by £328,000 during 2011/12 – but the cuts were reduced to £279,000 after a public outcry.

Graves Art Gallery’s reduced hours are 10am to 2pm on Thursday and Friday, and 11am to 3pm on Saturday. It used to open six days a week, for longer hours. Museums Sheffield has also reduced hours at the Millennium Galleries and Weston Park Museum and is making nine of its 105 staff redundant, with others on reduced hours.

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