VOLUNTEERS are considering setting up a trust to protect and run Herefordshire Council’s museums.

The council is currently considering ‘outsourcing’ the operation of its museums, libraries and archives through closed competitive tendering, as a way of saving money.

Herefordshire Museum Service Support Group, a volunteer-run charity, recently announced that it had raised more than £30,000 last year to go towards museum activities.

But chairman Miriam Griffiths, speaking at the group’s annual meeting, said ‘in the face of council cuts to the museum’s budget and staffing, this kind of fundraising is nowhere near enough to sustain the museum service’.

However, a recent lottery-funded report, written for the council and support group by independent museum consultants, has come up with a local, developmental solution.

The many thousands of precious historic objects in the museum collections could remain in council ownership, on behalf of the people of Herefordshire.

A non-profit trust could be set up, allowing local partner organisations to help invest in the museum service and develop aspects of staffing, new exhibitions, public programmes and learning activities.

A support group trustee said: “At present we see a skeleton museum service in operation, with a downward trend as the council focuses on ways to reduce its spending on museums, libraries and archives.

“This roadmap is for a staged journey towards a local museum trust model, it’s an opportunity for a more vibrant future for the museum. “It could open up more access to the treasures of the county collections and find money for development projects.

“Buildings and venue developments could be part of the plan.”

Ms Griffiths added: “A number of local non-profit organisations have already expressed interest in the potential partnership opportunities that this will bring.

“All trust income or grants would be ploughed back into the museum to be used for public benefit and increase the museum’s contribution to enriching people’s lives and improving the county’s tourism offer.”

Natalia Silver, Assistant Director for Communities, said: “Like other councils across the country, Herefordshire is reviewing the way it runs its museum, library and archives services important to thousands of people in the county.

“Herefordshire Council is exploring a whole range of opportunities to ensure these services are delivered sustainably in the future, with the help of volunteers, investment, income generation and long-term planning.

“The HMSSG have been involved in exploring those options which will be raised at cabinet on 28 June 2018, and have previously been discussed at General Scrutiny Committee with input from interested local groups. “If a procurement process does take place that would be an open process.”