England’s culture sector is to receive £850 million funding to restore and upgrade locations including the Tate, V&A, the Imperial War Museum and the British Museum, it has been announced by the Treasury.

The Treasury has already committed to almost £26bn of spending in total before tomorrow’s budget and spending review.

Ahead of the announcement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to unveil the three year investment to redevelop and refurbish sites, though a full breakdown of recipients – including regional museums – is yet to be announced.

Art Fund – Going Places – Oct 2023

Breakdown of £850 million

  • £300m for arm’s-length body estate maintenance, which covers national museums, galleries and cultural bodies
  • £135m Cultural Investment Fund to support regional museums and libraries, the York Railway Museum and Coventry UK City of Culture
  • £125m for construction of Natural History Museum research centre at Harwell in Oxfordshire
  • £42m to continue the High Street Heritage Action Zones
  • £14m to continue to move museum collection items from Blythe House and into modern storage
  • £169m core ALB (arm’s length bodies) capital grants, including for investment in sport and cultural assets and protecting heritage at risk.

Among the museums already set to receive funding is the V&A in London, Tate Liverpool and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, each of which will get a share of £300 million for “arm’s-length body estate maintenance”.

A total of £125 million will be put towards the build of the Natural History Museum’s new scientific research centre in Oxfordshire, set to open in 2026. The sum is the largest single figure to be provided to a museum as part of the already announced allocation.

The news comes as the museum reveals that, following economic analysis, online access to the museum’s 80 million digitised objects could create in excess of £2 billion in economic benefit across sectors.

The new centre will house 27 million specimens, over a third of the museum’s total collection, with a focus on the digitisation of specimens.

A fully digitised Natural History Museum could provide ‘tenfold’ return on investment

The British Library’s Boston Spa Redevelopment

The Treasury has announced that the British Library is to receive £77m for the redevelopment of its Boston Spa site.

It is as yet unclear if the funding is ‘new money’; in March 2020 the Government announced an investment of up to £95m to renew the Library’s Boston Spa site, near Leeds, with the intention of extending its storage capacity. Redevelopment plans are currently in the technical design stage.

Per a report from The Guardian, of the announced commitments, not all are fully new spending, or involve money used to replace earlier commitments.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “We’ve seen a weekend full of treasury smoke and mirrors ahead of the budget – with a government that would rather re-announce plans than get the work done.”

Blythe House collections

A further £14m will be provided to continue to move museum collection items from Blythe House, which currently stores museum collection items for the V&A, Science Museum and British Museum.

The Science Museum Group’s new storage facility, which will rehouse some of the collection items, is set to open in 2024.

Sustainability at scale: new era begins for Science Museum Group collections

110 regional museums to receive £75m

Ahead of tomorrow’s announcement, the Treasury has also announced over £75 million will be split between 110 regional museums and libraries.

Again, the Treasury has said the funding is to be used to improve buildings as well as to “level-up” digital facilities.

York’s National Railway Museum is the only location already announced as a recipient of funds, which will receive an as yet undisclosed sum to support its redevelopment.

Expansion plans at the museum continued this week with a public consultation on its planned Central Hall building beginning this week.

Plans advance for National Railway Museum’s major ‘Central Hall’ expansion 

High Street Heritage Action Zone to receive £42m

The Treasury has also announced that the High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme will receive £42 million.

A total of 67 high streets are said to benefit from the programme which is delivered in partnership with Historic England.

Via local authorities, the capital is hoped to turn unused run-down buildings into new homes, shops, work-places and community centres and provide repair works in historic buildings.

The scheme also funds events to encourage locals to learn about the heritage of their area, and has already delivered six self-guided audio walks around UK high streets via Historic England.

Historic England uses immersive sounds to guide exploration of UK high street history

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