The Welsh government has responded to feasibility studies for two new national museums.
The studies, for a National Contemporary Art Gallery for Wales and a National Football Museum, were published last year. The Welsh Government has set aside £10m in capital funds to progress the projects.
The arts feasibility study proposes a “distributed model” to support and grow the contemporary arts sector in Wales that would build on the county’s existing network of art galleries. The study sets out three-phase approach that includes exploring the creation a “headquarters” for a distributed contemporary art gallery network.
In a written statement this week, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism, said: “Firstly, the report called for a full exploration of how to secure the capital funds required, but also of how such a gallery would impact on existing funding streams, to ensure that it would benefit, not harm, the wider sector. Secondly, it recommended further audience research, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the market for contemporary visual arts in Wales.”
Elis-Thomas said the Arts Council of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales) would play a central role in the project.
The second feasibility study made the case for creating a football-related museum and visitor attraction. The report concluded that developing new facilities at Wrexham Museum would be the best option to showcase Wales’s football heritage.
“The study also recommended that this be done in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru, which continues to collect and promote sporting heritage as an integral part of the cultural life and national history of Wales,” Elis-Thomas said. “As I outlined in the plenary debate in November, I do see investment in the local museum in Wrexham as a pragmatic and achievable approach that can deliver a high-quality result.”
Elis-Thomas said the Welsh Government is now in discussions with the key stakeholders and a way forward will be agreed by the end of the summer.
Wrexham Council has welcomed the news that Wrexham Museum is the preferred option to house the football museum. Steve Grenter, the heritage and archives lead at the council, says: “We’re very pleased that the Welsh Government has seen the potential of Wrexham Museum as the home of the Welsh Football Museum. Welsh football has gained no small amount of prominence in recent years thanks to the performance of the national team, so this has the potential to be not just a national attraction, but an international one.”
The hope is that the museum building will house both the Welsh Football Museum and a new and enlarged Wrexham Museum, using available space on the first floor of the building.
Wrexham Museum has had an interest in football for some time. It acquired the Welsh Football Collection in 2000 with the assistance of a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and has had aspirations to house a permanent display about the game ever since.
With further details about the plans for the two national museums still to come from the Welsh government, some in the sector are concerned that projects will divert attention from the needs of existing venues. Many local museums have suffered from huge budget cuts in recent years and revenue funding is a real problem.
The sector is still waiting for the Expert Review of Local Museum Provision in Wales, which was published in 2015, to be implemented. The review contained a wide range of recommendations to support local museums in areas such as funding, regional working and workforce development.