Report criticised for calling Wales’ national museums ‘too narrowly Welsh’

National Museum of Wales. Picture by Ham II (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A report on Wales’ national museums has been criticised after it called on them to abandon a “narrowly Welsh” perspective on history.

The report was written by Dr Simon Thurley, who served as Chief Executive of English Heritage from April 2002 to May 2015, on behalf of the Welsh Government.

The report was completed last year but will be debated at the Senedd today.

The report criticises Wales’ museums for being unambitious and suggests that they focus instead on the history of Wales as part of the British Empire.

“My main criticism was a lack of ambition in the story that was being told,” he said. “These sites were presented as if they were telling part of the social history of a small country.

“Whereas they could be telling the story of how Wales, a small country, together with its larger neighbours England and Scotland, transformed the world in the 19th century.”

The change would make the museums more interesting for tourists “from outside Wales”, Dr Thurley said.

“Wales played a crucial role in the British century and its raw materials and know-how made a major contribution to the industrial revolution and the empire,” he said.

“Of course the human story in Wales is interesting and compelling, but so is the big picture of how Wales, as part of Britain, changed the face of the globe.”

Perspective

Dr Thurley’s recommendation was criticised by Elfed Wyn Roberts, the author of a petition asking that the history of Wales be taught in schools.

His petition, signed by 4821 people, calls on the Welsh Government to change National Curriculum to teach Welsh history, from a Welsh perspective, in Primary, Secondary and Sixth form Schools.

“Wales’ museums should celebrate Wales’ history, its workers and its peasantry,” Elfed Wyn Roberts said.

“It’s disgraceful that they would seek to reduce Wales’ history to its contribution to England and Scotland.

“We have the history of the Welsh Princes, the Merthyr Rising and the battle for the Welsh language and these should teach the Welsh to take pride in how we stood on our own two feet.

“The history of how we served the British Empire doesn’t do that.”

Government Cabinet Secretary, Ken Skates welcomed Dr Thurley’s report, saying that it was “balanced, thoughtful and impartial”.

“The review is a key step to help the Welsh Government identify the most appropriate ways in which we can help ensure Amgueddfa Cymru continues to thrive in the future, in what continue to be challenging financial times.”

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vicky moller
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vicky moller

Wales has played a part in global events but it isn’t the British empire I am thinking of. It is the movements and campaigns for social values to shine, against slavery, dictatorship, war and for cordial peaceful humanitarian values between nations.

Keith Parry
Guest
Keith Parry

This has Iron Ring Skates hands all over it. They are trying to abolish Wales and her hostory. Yesterday they were turning Cardiff into Suburb of Bristol!

apgras
Guest
apgras

i.e you have no stolen artefacts and items important to other Countries.

Kevin Bates
Guest

You clearly have little knowledge of welsh history. For 100s of years before the murder of llywelyn, the welsh had the most important ‘artifact’ of all. It was so important that after the english stole it, it was paraded around England and put on show. People come from all over Europe to see it in all its glory and to marvel at the death of the welsh nation. This was Y Groes Naid, It was a cross a priceless artifact that included a fragment of the cross that Christ was crucified on. It along with llywelyns crown and other things… Read more »

apgras
Guest
apgras

Seeing that I’m from Teyrnas Gwynedd, I do. I think you’ve misinterpreted what I said. I meant our National Museum is not full of stolen artefacts from far flung places.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Kevin, you sometimes have a knack of misreading what people say … please re read what he said 😀

Kevin Bates
Guest

sorry dude 🙁 i was worked up a it there.

ejcorbett2013
Guest
ejcorbett2013

I’m not sure that colonizing the world is something to be proud of!

Rob Evans
Guest
Rob Evans

Indeed. The museums should show how Wales was a victim of English (or Anglo-Norman) colonialism (and how this small country survived it) but could also admit how it went on to collaborate in the evil of British colonialism. Do you think they meant “transformed the world in the 19th century” to be an admission of colonialism or some odd claim of superiority over the rest of the world? Makes me shudder, Also, maybe external visitors would be more interested in our example of survIval rather that in any minor contribution to our neighbour’s dubious overseas activities. When I visited Estonia… Read more »

Gwilym ab Ioan
Guest

What another blood boiler! A classic example of the latest attempt to airbrush our history, as an unique nation, out of existence. It’s pretty obvious what the game is, and it’s not a new technique (for Cymru you can substitute any number of colonised countries that suffer the same fate). Anyone who does not see what is going on is either sleep-walking, stupid or couldn’t care less. Skates’ comment sums up the role of the Brit-Nat parties at Y Senedd, in it’s complicity to promote that new country: ‘Englandandwales’, and which is actively encouraged by our media and Brit-Nat propagandist… Read more »

JasRob
Guest
JasRob

Totally agree, let’s go!

Tudor Rees
Guest
Tudor Rees

Thurley Review of Amgueddfa Cymru
It seems that some of this Report has a 19th Century ring to it, and could have been written by the authors of the famous “Llyfr Gleision” Report.
Paradoxically it is very valuable as we can, in the light of it, appreciate how our Museum managers have managed to shrug off the stunted “League of Empire Loyalist” mentality that is crippling so much of English intellectual life these days. [Shades of Evan Davis and “Newsnight”!]

Roger Harris
Guest
Roger Harris

Seeing as Labour in General do not consider that Wales has a History before the Industrial Revolution no wonder the Minister thinks it is a balanced, thoughtful and impartial report.

Royston Jones
Guest

Good point.

Gwylon Phillips
Guest
Gwylon Phillips

Isn’t the Museum the National Museum of WALES? Not greater England.

Cat Agatha
Guest
Cat Agatha

Do not be narrowly Welsh. Wales is narrow. The world is wide – it comprises England and Scotland, but apparently not Ireland. Please learn your place in the world, Welsh people. Listen to what Mr Thurley says and learn. He is superior to you.

Rob Bruce
Guest

So let’s invade England, loot Hereford Cathedral, and put the booty on display in Cardiff. Job done.

Mrs. Tom Lew, Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Guest
Mrs. Tom Lew, Blaenau Ffestiniog.

…ETHNIC CLEANSING gan y Saeson ‘pwysig’….

Huw J
Guest
Huw J

I worked at a popular visitor attraction in Cardiff for over five years. Most of the visitors from abroad wanted to know more about the Welsh culture (language, accent, sports, art, food and much more) and history… they were already quite familiar with England / Britain. Many visitors were of Welsh descent and came from the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Respectful, wealthy people willing to spend cash here… just the type of tourist we need in Wales. We’d also get a lot of German visitors interested in Celtic mythology, Druids, love-spoons, castles, etc. Then you’d have French people… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

As a matter of interest, both France and Germany established academic Celtic Studies some considerable time before such studies were commenced anywhere in Britain. Even today it’s regarded as beneficial to have a working knowledge of both French and German if it is intended to study Celtic Studies. However, I agree wholeheartedly with you, our museums should celebrate ourselves, after all, the National Museum of Wales was established to teach us about ourselves and the rest of the world about us, as it explicit in those words on the walls of the main building in Cathays Park. However, it does… Read more »

apgras
Guest
apgras

English Wikipedia almost cuts out all Celtic history in the history of Britain, whereas the other 90 or so wiki pages in other languages include it. If it’s not taught in The S*,n, then it’s taught on Wiki. Revisionist of the highest degree.

Davydh Trethewey (@MawKernewek)
Guest

There is something of an English nationalist cabal of Wikipedia editors at work. One of their particular obsessions is to ensure that “, England” appears after every mention of Cornwall. If anyone removes it, or even changes it to “, United Kingdom” they’ll change it back often within minutes. Wikipedia is edited by people with time on their hands and a particular axe to grind in many cases.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

They have also taken ‘ownership’ of the entry on Brittany and will quickly remove any changes that highlight the colonial status of either Brittany or other Celtic nations in relation t education and language policy.

Davydh Trethewey (@MawKernewek)
Guest

Did they commission the report from the former head of English Heritage in naivety of the political nature of its role? On Dr Simon Thurley’s own Website, you can see some interesting background on this: http://simonthurley.com/about-me/ http://web.archive.org/web/20130821033722/http://www.simonthurley.com/cv.html “In 1989 I was appointed Curator of Historic Royal Palaces with responsibility for the presentation, archaeology, building conservation and maintenance and display of the six unoccupied royal palaces. In the 8 years I held the post I was responsible for a number of major restoration projects, including the completion of the fire damage at Hampton Court, …” !! “English Heritage also manages the… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Wales’ ‘contribution’ to the British Empire needs to be acknowledged, just as the Irish, or any other colonial contribution, but very much within the context of those colonies not having a great deal of choice as to whether they made a contribution or not. Was the contribution of Wales to the war effort in the Great War, (1914-1918) any greater than that of India? Or that of some of the African colonies against Germany’s colonies in Africa? Yes, our national museum does need to acknowledge our country’s part in the British Empire, but from an anti-imperialist perspective that deconstructs and… Read more »

Benjiman L. Angwin
Guest
Benjiman L. Angwin

Amgueddfa Cymru

(Amguedd + fa) + Cymru = The valuable property place belonging to Wales.

JD
Guest
JD

The irony is, there isn’t an actual museum about Wales’ history. I took a German friend to the National Museum in Cardiff and he was disappointed that there wasn’t anything about Wales and felt he didn’t learn anything.

We do, however, need to offer more choice. I would love a science museum/aquarium and a national centre for poetry.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

Sounds to me like Dr Thurley was an old fossil himself, probably extracted from a pile of bones at the BRITISH Museum. and doesn’t understand anything as subtle as the distinction between the 4 nations’ histories and cultures. However he worked for the Royal Family so that made him worthy in the eyes of the arse lickers down the Bay.

Davydh Trethewey (@MawKernewek)
Guest

He’s actually relatively young, when he was appointed Chief Exec of English Heritage he certainly was. In fact, the English Nationalist Wikipedia Cabal referred to him as a “boy wonder” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Thurley

More of the “young fogey” from the same mould as Jacob Rees-Mogg really than a fossil.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

Some people are born “old” or even “way past it”, like JRM, who I quite like in a funny way though I don’t think I could agree with him about anything much.

JD
Guest
JD

I mostly disagree with Thurley but also with those who want to completely reject any notion that Wales and the Welsh were complicit in the British Empire and took full advantage of it.

If you interpret the whole of Wales from the perspective of a Welsh-speaking village in Gwynedd, you’ll go nuts.

Probably not a popular thing to say on here, but the Welsh princes took full advantage of English and Norman inter-marriage and education at Oxford and London for centuries. It isn’t something that people are willing to admit to but there we are, it’s history and it’s not pretty.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

“Probably not a popular thing to say on here,….” say you. Well don’t worry, if it’s the truth it will withstand any kind of challenge. No doubt that in our need to defend and retain our identity we have probably sanitised our historical Princes way too much. They were creatures of their time, we don’t know enough about them because the Anglo-Norman ascendancy did a pretty good job of writing history to suit their perspective. No doubt Llewelyn Olaf was a nasty piece of work who was out to dominate others in Wales no matter what got in the way.… Read more »

sibrydionmawr
Guest

It’s obvious that you have a better grasp of history than many, but as you’re sure to know, actually acknolwedge that history and have to admit that our heroes had feet of clay does tarnish the national myth bit. Important though he is as a national character, Llywelyn Olaf is a contraversial figure who, claim some, was murdered by the evil English. The likely truth of the matter is that those who killed him in chance skirmish probably had no clue who he was, just that he was an enemy, and so a legitimate target. But of course, this doesn’t… Read more »

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

… and of course Glyndwr was never caught, and some say never died as no grave site was found…… so he still walks this country awaiting the time for an awakening. Very seductive myth !

j.humphreys
Guest
j.humphreys

Funny thing, the (ha ha!) red faced Baron. Have you tried to find a Kinnock surname?
Talk about airbrushed history, doesn’t seem to be a real name………

j.humphreys
Guest
j.humphreys

Ah, found it now. Kinnock is from an ancient Scottish name, caenach or similar.
But you can’t find on Named at all.

CambroUiDunlainge
Guest
CambroUiDunlainge

Oh for sure people did benefit. As some benefited from Wales being conquered in the first place – Dafydd Gam, the Herberts, the Rice family. Always people who try to make the best of a situation for their own interests.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Welsh under Hywel dda, was leagues ahead of Brutal English norman law….that is the truth at the end of the day…..and its never praised enough

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

The corruption of the mind, towards a Union forced and belligerent in its objectives of slavery, extinction of self, integration of the savages into semi decency, attempts to eradicate its language, and customs, extraction of its assets and wealth, robbed of lands , then to reign over us, is the ultimate humiliation to Anglophile its history as if it never had any property of culture or status. You don’t. Get used to it . Not far from me lies the farm of Gelli Wrgan in the valley Cwm Clydach. There is an inscription in stone . ‘Not my own my… Read more »

Hywel Moseley
Guest
Hywel Moseley

Who was the idiot who thought it a good idea to commission a report on Amgueddfa Cymru (the Museum of Wales) from a former head of English Heritage? Surely not Mr Skates again? Such a commission amounts to an invitation to adopt an English approach to the issue. Unsurprisingly in the circumstances Dr Thurley appears to have adopted a narrowly English perspective to his work. Since I have not read the report I will reserve the full extent of my indignation until after I have read it; but speaking generally my feeling is that Dr Thurley must have missed the… Read more »

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

The thoughtful responses from Hywel and Dafis, is a testimony to the wisdom of richness of the patient, to the discovery of the real Wales in its authentic and pure form. Sometimes times ugly, sometimes best to forget, but always ours to keep and cherish. The question best raised by Virgil Kane, in times of hunger, in times when they pulled old Dixie down, is our epitaph of a treachery that exists in the very halls that have the faded decoration of trust. Unbelievable.

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

Why is Ken Skates defending imperialism?

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

At least Skates is “out” in the open, clearly an undiluted Anglo arse licker and supremacist whose objective is to ensure seamless integration with the “major nation” by a programme of eradication of the Welsh identity. The Flint Ring was a good clue, this nonsense now caps it neatly. Tempted to give him a code name – Anschluss – or are there Austrians among us who might object ?

Al ap Daffyd
Guest
Al ap Daffyd

This is a really poor analysis of what the report recommends. It’s almost as if it has been done deliberately to fit a political agenda. Not unusual for this site, but disappointing nonetheless.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

But it’s there in black and white – clear and unambiguous. The mission statement of a colonised country’s national museum cannot avoid being a political issue, and Dr. Thurley has expressed a political opinion. What other reaction did you expect?

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

What a waste of money commisioning this person to come up with ideas and all he can come up with is doing the same as what he’s accustomed to in England. The English museums do all of this sort of stuff and why would we want to copy thrm.

If the French had commissioned him he would probably suggested more on the role of the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo and maybe emphasising the importance of Turner to French art history at the Louvre.

Alun Llewelyn
Guest

There are a number of worrying trends. In the age of devolution we should see a strengthened and more confident identity but the opposite is happening in several respects. This week Alun Cairns reiterated that his vision for the Welsh economy is a severnside concept that will inevitably make south Wales subservient to Bristol with similar threats in the north Wales/Deeside/Cheshire conurbations. Meanwhile Ken Skates might have been being polite in response Dr Thurley but I fear that it really is another indication of the Welsh minister’s lack of ambition, confidence, or historical awareness.

sianiflewog
Guest
sianiflewog

That tosser Thurley sounds like a tory pr!kc. Iasgob Annwyl! Darllenwch Brut y tywysogion, Historia Gruffydd ap Cynan, Trioedd Ynys Prydain, a’r Mabinogi. Good god! Just read Brut y Tywysogion with a lovely translation: good stuff there: how the young Rhys ap Gruffydd (soon to become the Lord Rhys) pushed anglo norman ladders from the castle parapets to prevent the castle being taken (and to kill those awful anglo-normans!): Nice page on Wicipedia as well. If you want inspiration read Historia Gruffydd ap Cynan – again with an English translation by Simon Jenkins. Gruffydd never gave up: he just kept… Read more »

Graham John Hathaway
Guest
Graham John Hathaway

The shrinking seas,
An ocean apart,
Those that lap these shores,
And sing,
Such sweet melodies,
Of a lost history,
That ages have not healed,
And still, even in our places to cherish,
The anthem of the Welsh
Diminished,
By the bars on the wall.
And it’s shadows
That tell all, to remind us,
Of the heads of the perished
Lying in the Tower,
Unsung,
And the crow still crows,
Even by those of our dignitary,
As we eat the entrails
Of our sovereign past
And alone we stand,
With empty hands our fore fathers
Unexplained, unfulfilled, still.

Petroc
Guest
Petroc
Davydh Trethewey (@MawKernewek)
Guest

Yr adrodd y hunain yw yma: http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/180109-amgueddfa-cymru-review-cy.pdf http://gov.wales/docs/drah/publications/180109-amgueddfa-cymru-review-en.pdf

Caled yw hi am ddarlen, mae’n teimlo bod “Google Translate” wedi cael i defnyddio.

All that’s needed to make the business profitable (because once its in the private sector, English Heritage can buy it via a hostile takeover!) is to make sure visitors are funneled through the gift shop, and screw down the wages of the staff as much as possible.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Air brushed history. After the eventual conquest of wales, edward 1st sent 500 welsh bards to the stake,in an effort to prevent them telling the welsh sbout their history.This effort to push the history of this islands indigenous population to the margins of consciousness persist to the present.Ed’s iron ring represents the most extensive and expensive medieval building program, all concentrated in the tiny nation of wales in an effort to prevent the recurrence of 2 hugely expensive military campaigns against the welsh.So,wales has more castles per head of population than anywhere in the world.To say we were punching well… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

It just gets from bard to verse.Perhaps the idiot who wrote this report would like to read Terry Breveron’ s exelent book entitled,”The Welsh a Biography “, to see just how much of the history of the indigenous (Welsh) peoples contribution to the history of this island has been systematically airbrushed from consciousness by the English establishment and the ancademic pupets of the state,the media and press.History did not start with the romans,then the saxons and normans,who were all foreigners to this land.We are still here despite people like the author of this report and his comments only serve to… Read more »

Lyn Thomas
Guest
Lyn Thomas

The mission of the National Museums of Wales was to show the World to Wales and Wales to the World, sidelining it to a mere footnote in imperial history does not do that. What are they thinking?