Strikes among the United Kingdom’s cultural workers forced the unexpected closure of the British Museum in London yesterday.
Last week, civil servants working for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) — the government department heading the cultural sector and policy in the U.K.— announced that they would begin striking on February 1 due to poor pay and labor conditions.
More than 100 members of the British Museum security and visitor services staff, who belong to the Culture Group of Britain’s Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union, intended to join the the strike for a week beginning on February 13.
“Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are on strike today as part of a nationwide dispute across the public sector,” explained the museum in a statement. “While [the strike] is outside the control of the Museum, it does affect our ability to open safely to both our visitors and staff, so we have taken the decision to close the Museum today.”
PCS Culture Group members began picketing outside the British Museum yesterday at 8 a.m., while others organized near the offices of the U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.
PCS is one of the UK’s largest trade unions and represents more than 200,000 civil servants and government workers. Members of the group include employees at organizations such as Historic England, the Wallace Collection, National Museums Scotland, and the National Museum of Liverpool.
In response to the protests, National Museums Scotland closed some of its venues yesterday, among them, the National War Museum and sections of the National Museum of Scotland. Historic England, the Wallace Collection, and the National Museum of Liverpool remained open.