Antonio Lampis

A better governance of cultural institutions: the reform of state museums

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Italian state museums, governance reform, results in management and publics, a model for other cultural institutions, new cultural policies

This article is an account as much as possible complete of the activities implemented by the author and of the results achieved in the three-year period (September 2017 – September 2020) while heading the Directorate-General of Museums under the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MIBACT). It is even a first opportunity to express his conviction, gradually reached in these years, that the evolution of state museums can offer insights to improve other areas of government intervention in culture. The significant social, cultural, and economic growth of reformed museums undoubtedly resulted even from some experimental changes: a governance model inspired by the private organisations, networks based on common quality standards shared across regions, provinces, and municipalities of the Italian Republic. The data and events in the last three years clearly outline how high-level, transparent selection procedures, greater autonomy for museum directors, relying on external experts when needed, and streamlining many procedures can benefit museums as well as other cultural institutions. Municipal theatres, for example, or 'enti lirici' (Lyrical institutions in the form of foundations), large festivals, and orchestras; together with museums, they are almost exclusively supported by public money. According to the data in the following pages, up until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reformed state museums represented 27 billion euros per year in revenue for the country (2018 data; this figure certainly increased in 2019). These revenues are the result of the related industries of the more than 240 million euros per year spent by the millions of tourists who visit our country (in 2018, 24 million out of 123 million tourists, i.e. one out of five, said their first reason for visiting Italy was wanting to see one or more state museums). During the three-year period, tourists represented only half of museum footfall: it is clear the significant growth of new museum visitors is represented by Italian citizens. In the current scenario and the still unclear pause for international mass tourism we need to plan an alternative emergency financing system. Clearly, those museums and institutions that purposefully continue being state-owned will still need the State's support to guarantee their operating resources. Overall, considering the sector's social and economic impact, the preparation of a large part of younger generations (too often employed on precarious and underpaid contracts ), and the praiseworthy efforts made so far by the reform, a law should create a framework for a better governance in the cultural sector. A transversal, organic law for museums and every sector of the country's cultural policy would be desirable, considering the sector's essential role for the country's social and economic restart.

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