Hampshire County Council

 

Recreation and Heritage Policy Review Committee

Item 7

 

26 May 2005

 
 

Executive Member - Recreation and Heritage Item 1

 

26 May 2005

 

Review of Governance of the Red House Museum

 

Report of the Director of Recreation and Heritage

Contact: Helen Wheeler, ext 5444 Caroline Dudley, ext 327 6704

1 Introduction

1.1 This report sets out the conclusions and recommendations of the review of the governance of the Red House Museum. The report on the Review of the Museum Service presented to the Executive Member and Policy Review Committee in January 2005 identified the need for a separate review of the Red House Museum (para. 7.1).

1.2 The review of the Governance of the Red House Museum was extended to incorporate a full review of Hampshire County Council's involvement in the Red House. The recommendation is for the continuation of the present arrangements for the management of the Red House Museum and that Hampshire County Council should continue as sole Trustee of the Red House Museum Charitable Trust.

1.3 The report has been prepared following research and consultation with the two partner authorities, Dorset County Council and Christchurch Borough Council, through discussions with officers and the Joint Management Committee of the Red House Museum and the recommendations are supported by officers of the two partners. An interim report to the Red House Joint Management Committee in February 2005 is included as an appendix to this report.

2 Review of the Constitution

2.1 A separate review of the Red House Museum was undertaken to allow full consideration of the specific issues by all three partners, to consider their individual future involvement in the management of the Red House and together identify those governance issues within the present Constitution that should be recommended for revision. In order to ensure that the Red House Museum is placed in the best position to play an effective role in the strategic objectives of Hampshire Museums and Archives Service (HMAS) and of the two partner authorities in future recommendations are proposed for revision of the existing Constitution.

2.2 Consideration of the existing Constitution under which the Joint Management Agreement operates has focussed on;

3 Red House Museum management and the collection

3.1 The Red House Museum situated in Christchurch, Dorset has since 1971 been managed by Hampshire County Council. Following Local Government reorganisation in 1974 Dorset County Council and Christchurch Borough Council have shared the running costs. Eventually a formal Joint Management Agreement (JMA) was established in 1988. The JMA between the three partners has been widely regarded as acting to the advantage of all three authorities allowing them to sustain a quality of service that would not otherwise be possible.

3.2 The Red House Museum acts as a sub-regional museum for the south-western part of the historic County of Hampshire and the south-east of Dorset. For this area the Red House is a heritage archive with large and important collections displayed in a Grade 2 listed former Parish Poor House with the additional attraction of the surrounding gardens.

3.3 As guardian of the collection Hampshire alone of the three partners is able to fulfil the Charitable Trust Scheme requirements for storage, preservation, conservation, documentation, and registration. Neither Dorset or Christchurch Council are in a position to provide these professional services as custodian of the collection. HMAS is also able to make the collection accessible at the Red House and in exhibitions at Community Museums across Hampshire providing much unique display material. 20% of the Milestones displays are from the Red House collection.

3.4 The Red House Collection covers much more than is on display at the Red House itself. It comprises most of the natural history research collections housed at Chilcomb, a large part of Hampshire's archaeology and local history holdings and significant elements of the important ceramics on display at the Allen Gallery in Alton. The collection as a whole has significant strategic importance to Hampshire Museum Service, dating back to the days when Christchurch was still in Hampshire and the collections were drawn from all over the south west of the county.

3.5 Following the retirement of the Curator of the Red House in early May, and in line with the recommendations of the Museums Review to employ vacancy management to release resources for a greater level of learning and access work in the Community Museums, a new arrangement has been put in place, in agreement with the two partner authorities to manage the Red House. The Curator of the Red House will not be replaced at present.  Instead the Curator of St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, an independent museum supported by HCC, has agreed to oversee the Red House's programme of exhibitions and activities for the immediate future. 

3.6 At the same time the Museum Manager at the Red House and the Senior Museum Assistant have agreed to assume additional responsibilities for the day-to-day operation of the Red House to compensate for the lack of a permanent on-site Curator. There is no additional cost implied in these new arrangements, which represent a re-investment of the saving made on the Curator's post together with new financial support for the St. Barbe Museum Education Officer post from New Forest District Council and the Lymington Trust.

3.7 The Museums and Archives Service, in conjunction with New Forest District Council and the Lymington Museum Trust, is in the process of assisting St. Barbe to set up an education advisory service for six museums in South West Hampshire which will include the Red House. It is anticipated that this will be in place by September 2005, funded in part from savings on the vacant curator's post at the Red House.

4 Financial support

4.1 The financial contribution of the 3 partners to the management of the Red House is split equally, currently approximately £50,000 per annum each. Included within this is a contribution to Hampshire's central Museums Service costs i.e. conservation, design, administration, marketing, education programmes and exhibitions services provided by HQ staff from Chilcomb. Christchurch and Dorset councils have indicated their commitment to continuing this investment which represents a good return for provision of a local Museum service and a secure and sustainable future for the Red House Museum Charitable Trust.

4.2 The new position of Premises Manager within the revised Museums Service management structure with provision for annual review of property issues by the County Council's Property, Business and Regulatory Services should, in future, help to overcome the problems associated with occasional additional capital expenditure costs. This will better facilitate the procedures already included in the written Constitution and allow the constituent authorities to submit costs for inclusion in their own Capital Works programmes and satisfy, as far as possible, the need for advance notice of costs additional to the annual budget contribution by the partners.

5 Joint Management Committee

5.1 The written Constitution includes provision for the election of two Councillor representatives to the Joint Management Committee by each partner and annual appointment of the Chairman. It is recommended that this clause of the Constitution be extended (para.4(e)) to include a requirement that the Chairmanship of the Committee be rotated annually between the three partners through a three year cycle to raise the profile, involvement and responsibility for the Red House with each partner authority.

5.2 The Committee presently has the power to appoint sub-Committees `from amongst their number' (para.4(f)) but no power to co-opt non-voting officer representation on the Committee and includes at least one person for each partner authority. For the successful future strategic development of the Red House a power to co-opt non-voting representatives for a specific period of time from other local interested organisations is recommended.

6 Conclusions

6.1 Officer discussions have resulted in a clear commitment between the partners to regular meetings to formulate a strategic action plan to develop the Red House Museum and address the other issues that emerged as part of the review (i.e. improving access, education and outreach programmes and improving the permanent exhibitions). In addition to the expertise of the HMAS Community Museum Development Team and the Learning, Access and Interpretation Team, the Red House is in a position to benefit from connections with both the South West Museums Hub and through Hampshire's position as Hub leader in the South East.

6.2 The Red House Museum would most likely be unsustainable as an independent Charitable Trust without local authority support and the existing partnership is extremely valuable to Hampshire particularly with regard to the access to the huge Collection and should be sustained. The principle supported in the Museums Service Review of delivering a County Museum service to local communities via local Community Museums is fully supported by the partners in the Red House and continuation of the existing partnership seen as the most effective strategy for the future development of the Red House.

Recommendation

Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background papers

The following documents disclose facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and has been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report.

N.B. the list excludes:

1. Published works.

2. Documents that disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.