It’s no secret that there’s a funding crisis in the UK’s museums and galleries sector. Many establishments are looking for ways to bolster the funding they receive from donations and the likes of lottery grants. One way of doing this is to develop their commercial offerings.

A recent article for Museums+Heritage Advisor shared some examples of how some of the UK’s galleries and museums are making extra income by hiring out spaces, or having dedicated areas for corporate use.

One thing that any museum or gallery needs to be mindful of if it’s going to host events is how it protects its exhibits when people aren’t simply visiting to view the artefacts or works of art. Investing in museum or art gallery barrier systems that can be customised depending on the type of events you’ll be running is a good place to start.   

The Natural History Museum is one of the places cited by the Museums+Heritage Advisor article. It pointed to a number of events that the museum has hosted in recent years that capitalise on its unique interior architecture.

For example, it hosted the only UK stop on Coldplay’s world tour in November 2019. Meanwhile, the Natural History Museum also made good use of the exhibition space where it displayed the Museum of the Moon piece by Luke Jerram.

During the time that this artwork was on display, the museum hosted yoga sessions, private events, interactive theatre performances and special after-hours events to make the most of the stunning 3D moon, as well as the Jerwood Gallery, where it was housed.

But this is far from the only example of galleries and museums getting creative with what they do with their space. Newcastle’s Baltic Centre, for example, has started offering rooftop walks to companies that book out its corporate spaces for meetings.

The British Motor Museum is another establishment that has focused on its corporate and events offering in recent years. It recently completed a £2 million refurbishment of its conference and meeting rooms.

General manager at the museum Tom O’Reilly told the publication that there’s a lot going for the space. “Our unique venue has great road access, free parking, excellent branding opportunities and you can dine amongst 300 historic British cars,” he stated.

The V&A Museum of Childhood is set to undergo a significant regeneration, starting later this year, to provide a series of new spaces that allow it to deliver a “more meaningful” programme, Design Week recently reported.

From May this year, the museum will close for two years while the £13 million regeneration project is carried out. Three new permanent galleries – Imagine, Play and Design – will be at the heart of the redevelopment.

Imagine is designed to “set the imagination free”, V&A director of design and FuturePlan Philippa Simpson told the news provider. Play will be an interactive gallery space with games and displays that are designed to improve children’s motor skills.

Design, meanwhile, will be where the artist-in-residency programme will be relaunched. It’s aimed at an older audience and will also include spaces where creatives and young people can work together.

Part of the redevelopment project will also involve creating a performance area called The Stage. This will have a capacity of 125 people and the museum explained it would be the “centrepiece for its daily programming”.

Ms Simpson commented: “The big shift made by the current project is to rethink what is of most value to today’s young visitors – what purpose can the museum usefully serve in the 21st century. We know that, within a growing landscape of cultural offers, museums must adapt to the changing world to remain relevant.”

Making museums and galleries into spaces that can be used and appreciated by communities is another thing that those in the sector are exploring. The Islington Gazette recently reported that the Museum of Homelessness (MoH) recently won funding for an 18-month creative residency and heritage project.

The MoH’s “Outsiders, Now and Then” project will start next month and will explore the “outsider heritage” of homelessness and LGBTIQ+ resistance in the UK. According to organisers, this will be the first time these two topics have been explored together.

The news provider explained that this is the “next step in the MoH’s joint residency with Queerseum at The Outside Project’s community centre inside the former Clerkenwell Fire Station”.

With the new grant funding, the MoH will be able to provide paid work for artists, producers and researchers from the LGBTIQ+ and homeless communities, as well as host a new exhibition at the former fire station during Pride month, and run a weekly direct-access drop-in service for street homeless people, run by the MoH, Streets Kitchen and Islington Council.