Cultural policy Museums Heritage Italy

Italian culture minister pledges to give museums more autonomy

Dario Franceschini aims to increase independence of the Uffizi and other leading institutions

Dario Franceschini promises reforms

The Italian minister for culture and tourism, Dario Franceschini, has announced a series of “revolutionary” reforms, which could mean that leading museums such as the Uffizi in Florence and the Accademia in Venice gain independence on a par with many of their European counterparts. Franceschini said: “The chronic lack of autonomy of Italian museums... greatly limits their potential.” He also aims to cut costs, streamline the administration and better integrate the work of his ministry.

The ministry was earmarked for staffing cuts after a €100m reduction in its budget from 2012 to 2013 under Franceschini's predecessor Massimo Bray. The latest review, presented by Franceschini last week, justifies 37 managerial redundancies in museums to reduce bureaucracy.

If the proposals go ahead—there is a chance that they will be watered down—20 museums and archaeological sites deemed of “major national interest” will become self-governing institutions, no longer run by civil servants in the culture ministry. Directors will be appointed by public competitions open to Italian and international candidates. Museum directors will have the power to make key decisions, such as changing ticket prices or service contractors. Such reforms need to be approved by the Italian cabinet and subsequently passed by Parliament, however.

The reforms apply to institutions including the Uffizi in Florence, the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, the Accademia in Venice, the Colosseum and Borghese Gallery in Rome and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The changes will not affect Pompeii until the end of the 2015, the deadline for the EU-funded “Great Pompeii Project”, the €105m programme to preserve the site.

The planned changes would see other museums continue to be administered centrally but through a reformed system of 17 regional museum networks. Meanwhile, a newly-created department within the ministry will address “contemporary art and architecture and urban peripheries”, planning original public works for areas outside city centres.

“These aren't minor changes,” the minister said in an official statement. “Italians expect significant reforms from this government and the re-organisation of the culture ministry is a revolution that will enable us to invest in the incredible cultural heritage we possess,” he said.

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