Museum of Military Medicine invited potential sponsors on all-expenses paid trip in return for support
The Museum of Military Medicine invited potential sponsors including the vice-chancellor of Cardiff University on all-expenses paid trip to Austria “in return for” becoming “an ambassador” for its move to the capital.
Professor Colin Riordan received an invitation to join a “select group of potential partners” on a two-day visit to Linz in October 2019 as part of the Museum’s efforts to secure planning permission, funding and local support for its new five-storey building in Cardiff Bay.
There is no record that the vice-chancellor replied to the Museum, and he did not attend the visit. The Museum’s business plan cites only Swansea University as an academic partner.
But the invitation, which was revealed through a freedom of information request seen by Nation.Cymru, lays bare new details of the Museum’s behind-the-scenes lobbying of influential figures in the face of grassroots opposition.
It states: “The trustees greatly value the contribution that you can make to ensure that this project is a great success. Consequently, to enable you to join us in Linz, we are pleased to say that we will cover all your costs to attend – this will include your travel, accommodation and subsistence for the visit.
“In return for accompanying us on this visit, we hope that you will become an advocate and ambassador for the project, provide us with feedback as to how we can make the whole Cardiff project become more relevant for you and your work and, hopefully, consider how you can become more fully involved in making this investment happen in Cardiff.”
According to a news post by architects Scott Brownrigg, a delegation from the museum did travel to Linz and was joined by “museum Trustees and Directors, along with representatives from the University of South Wales, National Museums Wales and BBC Wales”.
The BBC published an article about the museum’s plans a month later.
Friends of Britannia Park, who are campaigning against the museum being built in Cardiff Bay, said that the evidence that the Museum of Military Medicine tried to win support by offering “expenses-paid trips” was “deeply concerning”.
Attached to the museum’s invitation letter was a list of other invitees, whose names have been redacted, a booking form and an itinerary which includes a visit to the ARS Electronica centre and meetings with representatives of Linz City Council.
The ARS Electronica centre offers the same “deep space” immersive video facility which the Museum believes will help it attract 250,000 annual paying visitors by its second year.
“The award-winning ‘Deep Space’ is a unique immersive environment that delivers specially created experiences for entertainment and, particularly, educational purposes,” states the Museum’s letter to Professor Riordan and other potential supporters.
“The opportunity to bring this facility to Wales, and to Cardiff, has the potential to be transformative in all aspects of our educational, research and tourism offer.”
However, despite the facility, the ARS Electronica most recent annual visitor numbers show it received some 60,000 fewer visits than the Museum of Military Medicine anticipates in its business plan.
The latest insights into the Museum’s lobbying strategy comes weeks after Nation.Cymru last month revealed correspondence with Cardiff Council’s senior management which showed the pressure they applied during the planning process. Permission was eventually granted in December.
The Museum also lobbied the Cardiff and Vale Health Board to make a public statement in favour of the project in the face of what they described as “fake news”.
After receiving planning permission and a 250-year lease for the Britannia Park site, the only stumbling block for the Museum is to raise the necessary funding for their project.
The Museum said it is “seeking an investor who will fund the building” but Cardiff Council confirmed last month it has not yet seen proof that funding is in place.