A research-based dilemma…

I’m currently in the phase of doing some more primary research for my book on Portsmouth’s Second World War dead. I’ve been looking at doing some research in the Archives of a small, independent military Museum (line infantry Regiment, shall we say). I enquired by email about visiting the Museum to do some research…. no problem. The cost though? £25… AN HOUR! So for a days research, which is the minimum I would need, I would be looking at something in the region of £150! That would be a sizeable percentage of the total money I would make out of selling the maximum print run of my book!

I just think its wrong. All I want to do is write about some brave men who didn’t make it home, but I’ll now have to do it without the help of their Regimental Museum. I know its expensive to run Museums – hell, I know that more than anyone, I pay the bills and process the income for six – but why charge such a prohibitively high cost? If you need to make money, think outside the box and get your income generation hat on rather than hitting people who are trying to do good work. It obviously doesn’t cost £25 an hour to have somebody visit to do research, so why penalise? It’s not as if researchers ever make money out of what they do… only the big-shot historians like Max Hastings or Anthony Beevor really make any money. At best I’m looking at covering my costs. At best.

I always thought the idea of the Regimental Museum was to preserve the memory of those who have died serving with it? Or am I missing a trick – is it that some Museum’s just don’t want any tom, dick or harry turning up poking their noses in, so they set the costs prohibitively high? I’m just at a loss to understand why there is such a barrier to access, study and commemoration. And especially with budget cuts, institutions will be unable to carry out research and projects that they might like to, making it all the more important to encourage and enable individuals to do so instead.

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3 Comments

Filed under debate, Museums, Remembrance

3 responses to “A research-based dilemma…

  1. John Erickson

    If you were here in the States, I’d day it was because some idiot decided that if the museum was just going to sit there, it should at least make HUGE amounts of money – the more the better. Being somewhat more sane Brits, I’d guess that the “money guy” and the “operations guy” don’t talk to each other, or even KNOW each other. The price is set by some bean counter who figures it costs them 25 quid per hour to turn everything on (including insurance to protect THEM from YOU – or is that more Yank BS?), so they’ll pass 100% of the cost to you. You might want to nose around a bit, see if you can find a museum person who ISN’T the designated contact (preferably higher up the chain of command), and hint that the free PR they get from letting a researcher in, is worth a HECK of a lot more than their exorbitant 25 quid/hour (I can’t find my pound-money sign, sorry). It might help to find a museum member/survivor, and use them as a reference. (But you probably know all this, sorry.) Good luck – this kind of nonsense can really raise the blood pressure!

    • John Erickson

      Cool! You’re my 300th topic signup (or whatever) on Word Press! It’s all your fault – I was reading some stuff about the Royal Navy, there was a link to your site, and the rest, as they say, was history. No, I don’t remember what site linked to yours, and I wouldn’t tell you – I don’t want you going after them for dumping me in your lap! :D

    • James Daly

      I think its a combination of everything to be honest John. I know I’ve blogged in the past about the archaic management of smaller military Museums and this is a great example. Most of them have a board of trustees of ex-Majors and Colonels and god knows what else, who are hardly qualified for modern leisure venue management. I would be inclined to drop the charges considerably, say £25 a day, and then you would get more people coming and take in more money anyway! And not only that, but more people would be researching the Regiment, which surely is what its all about? Or should be! And then if you have to make money, look at venue hire, trading, etc… but dont punish the ordinary Joe.

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