Academics and learned societies have raised alarm over what they fear will be the impact of budget cuts on Glasgow’s world famous art and museum collections.

In strongly-worded letters to city chiefs they underline the international importance of the artefacts some which date back to ancient civilisations and even prehistoric times.

They argue that if specialist staff who look after the objects are made redundant it will be harder for the remaining employees to protect them from loss and damage and that in turn would taint Glasgow's international reputation as a centre for the arts and culture.

The experts have come forward after The Herald revealed earlier this week that employees and trade union leaders fighting the cuts fear for the future of the collections should the £1.5m cut goes ahead.

READ MORE: Fears for future of Glasgow's famous art collections if cuts go ahead

Glasgow Life, which runs the museums and galleries on behalf of Glasgow city council, have earmarked the savings as part of a £7.1m package of measures to be implemented this year.

The cuts to the museums and collections budget would mean the loss of 38 staff including curators, conservators, specialist technicians and photographers.

Together they help to care for the collections 1.2 million items - worth £1.4 billion.

Some are held in Burrell Collection, which reopened last year after a £68m refurbishment, others in the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.

The experts also point out too that with fewer staff to monitor the treasured items it will be more difficult for the objects to be put on display for public view and for researchers to access them for studies.

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The Department of Archaeology at Glasgow University, the Glasgow Archaeological Society and the Prehistoric Society have all written to the city's civic leaders to raise their concerns and to call for the cuts to be reversed.

Professor Nicki Whitehouse, head of subject at the Department of Archaeology at Glasgow University, appealed directly to Councillor Annette Christie, chair of Glasgow Life.

"Such cuts, including up to 30% of staff, would be detrimental both to the staff who lose their jobs but also the capacity of those who are retained, and would have wider ramifications, not least reputational damage to Glasgow City Council and the city’s internationally renowned museums.

"Moreover, such cuts would represent a damaging blow to the cultural life and wellbeing of Glaswegians and have a detrimental impact on archaeological and historical research, and the collections themselves," she said.

"Museum curators and staff from Glasgow Life Museums and Collections regularly support and collaborate with researchers from our department, engagements that are hugely valuable, carrying out research into regional archaeology and heritage.

"This draws on materials and objects from prehistory to the 21st century held in your collections beyond the material on public display."

She underlined the museums held "internationally important collections, such as European Arms and Armour" and warned access to these materials is already being impacted by budget cutbacks.

"The cuts that are now proposed will make this even worse. Even more concerning would be any negative impacts on conservation of materials and objects – much of this material is unique and fragile, representing our collective heritage, and maintaining essential standards of care for the collection is essential," she said.

She said that "a time of financial stress" services such as conservation, photography and design "may seem to be a luxury, but nothing could be further from the truth".

She added: "A critical understanding of the past and other cultures is vitally important for any mature society and the educational potential – and the joy your collections and museums give to countless school kids – cannot be counted on a balance sheet.

"We therefore urge you and your fellow councillors to reconsider these proposed cuts. Glasgow’s museums are a vital resource for the people of the city and beyond; home to priceless and fragile collections; have huge research potential; and are closely tied to the reputation of the city across the world, who will be watching on with concern. Glasgow museums are and must continue to be places of accessible pleasure, reflection, learning and family time; these proposed cuts put this at severe peril."

Writing on behalf of the Council of Glasgow Archaeological Society, its president Dr Kenneth Brophy told council leader, Councillor Susan Aitken: "We are deeply worried that these cuts will negatively impact on the vital services your museums offer for the people of Glasgow and beyond, the collections themselves, and access to those collections for members of the public and researchers.

The Herald: Glasgow city council leader Susan Aitken has been asked to intervene.  Photo Colin Mearns/The Herald.

"Glasgow Archaeological Society has been in existence for almost 160 years and during that time our organisation and members have had close associations and engagements with Glasgow’s museums....Artefacts from our excavations are in your collections, and archival materials related to the life and work of several of our past presidents are held by Glasgow Life.

"The future stability of this material, and access for researchers, must be cast into doubt due to the reduced capacity of your staff and services that these cuts will cause."

He added: "One of the strongest benefits of being a citizen of Glasgow – the availability of free museums and libraries – would be eroded by these cuts...The risk to educational work – and the joy your collections and museums give to countless school kids – is very real should these cuts happen. We therefore urge you and your fellow Councillors to reconsider these proposed cuts."

Professor Linda Hurcombe, President of the Prehistoric Society, which specialises in advancing understanding of the prehistoric past, stressed the importance of the artefacts and their educational value.

"The museum collections include fine archaeological holdings, enabling the full story of Glasgow to be told and interpreted for visitors who are unaware of its rich time depth. The museum, its staff and collections are a key asset of Glasgow’s rich cultural life, one of the finest in the United Kingdom," she said.

She added: "Your archaeological collections give an exceptionally detailed account of Glasgow and Scotland’s prehistory, and are of great importance to researchers, particularly into the Neolithic and Bronze Age when Scotland was at the forefront of cultural change in the UK more widely.

"This was a period of seismic shift in society, as migrants travelled from the European mainland to find a new home and community here. These are important stories which resonate today with the movement of peoples across Europe."

Professor Hurcombe said she was "very mindful of the difficult circumstances of the current economic climate" but urged city leaders to "maintain funding at current levels".

Members of the trade union Unison took part in a five-day strike last week over the proposed cuts with further action planned.

Unison wants more national funding to be provided to Glasgow’s museums to recognise the international significance of the city's collection.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “The reduction in our museums workforce reflects a situation that is increasingly commonplace in museums across the UK, as costs continue to rise significantly and settlements for local government fail to keep pace with those increases.

“Glasgow Life Museums is the largest non-national museums service in Scotland by a substantial margin and achieves this with no core revenue support from either the Scottish or UK Government. Given the need to save £1.5m in our museums service this year, our revised workforce structure will support managing the impact of this as effectively as possible.

“Glasgow is proud to have a strong track record of investment in culture and the city’s museums collection receives careful and considered care. We will continue to meet the standards required to safeguard the Collections in the same way that we remain committed to maintaining our strong engagement with communities experiencing barriers to engaging with culture.

“We have been clear that the measures identified in our museums and collections service are an unavoidable consequence of the continued pressures on public sector finance. They have already been approved by Glasgow City Council, and without additional external funding our only option would be to take the savings agreed in museums from elsewhere in Glasgow Life.”