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Top museums to get more leeway in managing pricing, timings and hiring

by Antonello Cherchi

Starting January 1st, the Ministry of Culture will change the way it works: 18 museums will be given managerial autonomy, the regional directorates will disappear, the map of central directorates will be re-designed, and regional museum clusters will be born.

The new set of measures is a consequence of the so-called ‘Spending Review' of 2012, which forced all ministries to cut 20% in managerial departments and 10% cuts in non-managerial ones. The cost reduction served as an opportunity to rethink the structure of the Culture Ministry, and is part of the reform carried out by Culture Minister Dario Franceschini when he took over in 2014.

The reform has finally come into effect after the Corte dei Conti – Italy’s State Comptroller agency - gave its approval.

The main novelty is the special managerial freedom granted to 18 institutions. Art locations must invest more in themselves, doing all they can to enhance the value, as much as possible, of their potential – in a “commercial” sense as well.

That is why, in particular, those executives in charge of the 7 museums to whom the title of “Director General” was granted can be recruited with 3 to 5 year contracts among outsiders of the administration, with job posting also open to international experts.

They will have to demonstrate not only an “outstanding and proven professional qualification in terms of protection and value-enhancement of cultural assets” but also a “documented, high-level experience in the management of culture-related facilities and institutions.”

Thanks to such freedom the selected museums will, in fact, be able to set the price of tickets and the opening hours, take care of communication, and organize exhibits. In short, they have to build the value of the museum turning it to a “vital and inclusive space, able to promote the development of culture.”

With this reform, the number of Director Generals will increase, while all current Regional Directors will lose their title. The reform abolishes regional directorates and transforms them into regional secretariats (non-general managerial level offices) with the task of coordinating the activities of the various regional Ministry of Culture offices throughout the country.

Finally, museum clusters, under the supervision of the museums’ Director General’s office, are born. The cluster’s director is given the task of coordinating the activities of all other art-related institutions on the base of value and users’ needs.