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Historical society raps plans to close Museum of Cardiff

12 Feb 2023 4 minute read
Photo Seth Whales, CC BY-SA 3.0

Campaigners have slammed plans to close the Museum of Cardiff and replace it with mobile exhibitions, claiming such a move will seriously damage the city’s status and identity.

Cardiff Council revealed proposals in its draft budget consultation in December to move the museum  out of its home in the Old Library on The Hayes and turn it into a mobile attraction.

The council said that making the museum a mobile attraction could save money, which could then be used to re-open the museum in a permanent home in the future.

However, no assurances were given on this possibility.

A council report on the budget consultation for 2023-24 states that this could be done if a suitable location was found, and funding secured.

The Roath Local History Society has warned council leader Huw Thomas the move would seriously damage the city’s reputation and attractiveness to residents and visitors alike.

In an open letter, members of the city’s leading historical association also say the proposals “ would drastically reduce the museum’s ability to display the breadth of its collections and would put exhibits at risk of damage or of disappearing into “purposeless storage”.

It would also jeopardise the outreach and engagement programmes currently hosted at the museum.

National Museum of Wales

The museum in the Old Library building was only opened in 2011, filling a gap left by the  absorption of the previous Cardiff collection into the National Museum of Wales in the early 20th century.

An industrial and maritime museum focused on Wales as a whole was opened in 1977 in Cardiff Bay but subsequently moved to Swansea to spread Welsh national collections to other parts of the country.

The society’s letter states: “To consider closing the museum after just 12 years would be a retrograde move which diminished the prestige of Cardiff, and an insult to those who campaigned for the museum, to those who arranged financing and planned it, to those who donated artefacts to it, and indeed to the people of Cardiff generally.”

Copies have been sent to the area’s MP, shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens, Senedd member Jenny Rathbone, and council cabinet members.

Rich history

“Cardiff has a unique and rich history, which includes its time as a Roman settlement, as the seat of the Norman lordship, subsequent county town of Glamorganshire, not to mention as the largest coal exporting port in the world,” society chairman Dr Gareth Brown says.

“Other museums including the National Museum and the Museum of Welsh History at St. Fagans, are not able because of their broader focus to properly explore Cardiff’s history.

“Visitors to the city would be deprived of an opportunity learn of its interesting past.

“We cannot see how the proposal would improve the profile and visibility of the museum for tourists. Indeed, it would be shameful to explain that the museum is not in the centre of Cardiff but is instead at a moveable location outside the centre.

“By closing the museum Cardiff hinders its ability to promote its museums for the purposes of tourism. This is in stark contrast to other cities such as Liverpool which use museums prominently to provide interesting experiences for visitors.”

“Spillers Records” by Howard Dickins is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The society also argues that the Old Library, a Grade II* listed building in a pedestrianised area of historic interest is the right place for the museum which should stay there.

Founded in 1861 and the first free institution of its kind in Wales, its original name was the Cardiff Free Library, Museum, and School of Science and Art.

Part of the building is to be leased to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

This should, Roath Local History argues, present opportunities for collaboration.

“The Library was originally funded by public subscription and should remain, as now, accessible to all, with a Cardiff-centric museum the natural focal point”, Dr Brown says.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Sack the lot, not fit for a capital city…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Not much in that list to brag about, it’s the people that matter, those immortalised in the museum and those that wish to visit their past in the struggle of life… Leave the tales of the Big House to the BBC and the National Trust and the consciences of the latest generation of Aristos still awash with blood money refreshed with more recent blood money from PPE etc… Best not labour the fact that Wales exported more of that particular fossil fuel than any other country. Better to record the fight for the right to simply make ends meet and… Read more »

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