Museum of… Cefn Mawr & District Museum, Wrexham - Museums Association

Museum of… Cefn Mawr & District Museum, Wrexham

A community venue that is truly for the people, by the people
Small Museums
Tilda Coleman
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Members of the public donated 90 of the objects in the museum collection

Where 

The museum is in a room at the back of the George Edward community hall, in the middle of Cefn Mawr, a village in the county borough of Wrexham, Wales. 

What 

It is a community museum of local history that has around 90% of the collection donated or on loan from members of the public, says archivist and the museum’s curator Alan Tiltman, a former vicar. The venue is divided into nine sections that focus on various aspects of village life. 

The industry section includes employment records, while the transport section features past travel essentials, such as maps and books. An array of medals, uniforms and ration cards can be found in the war memorabilia display. One area contains the history of bands and choirs, and other sections concentrate on sport, churches, schools and the canal and River Dee.

Opened 

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In 2011, members of the Cefn Mawr Historical Society started to bring items that had belonged to their relatives to meetings. “We had this room in the back of the hall and we got the idea to make a museum out of it,” says Tiltman. The society partnered with the community council, which is also based in the hall, and the museum opened in 2015. 

Collection 

Tiltman says that when the venue first opened, volunteers wondered how on earth the room would be filled. Now, there is almost too much to exhibit, with people bringing in new artefacts nearly every week. “For the most part we accept anything that comes in,” Tiltman says. 

The collection ranges from small plastic milk tokens to a mangle – the traditional device used to wring water from wet laundry – and a coracle, a little round boat. The museum also has a mobile element, called Museum in a Box. Volunteers chose a group of items to put in a box and then take the museum experience to schools, care homes, a memory clinic and local dementia groups.

Highlights 

Tiltman loves the music section of the museum, where tunes are played from different eras to chime with the objects on show. Visitors taking in a display of items from the 1940s, for example, are also audibly reminded of the time. “Playing music helps people remember, and greatly contributes to the experience,” Tiltman says. “For me, the highlight is playing music to fit with what we do every day.” 

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Help at hand 

The museum is run by a dozen volunteers. It is open three days a week and on second Saturdays in summer. 

Budget 

The only revenue comes from a monthly raffle – the museum has never received funding or grants. The community council doesn’t charge for the cost of the room and Tiltman says nothing else has come up for which money has been required. Entry is free. 

Sticky moment 

One problem the venue faces is the public performing licence: the Performing Rights Society charges the museum £450 a year to play music. “When you have little income that’s a lot to pay for playing a few CDs,” says Tiltman.

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Survival tip 

Having a space that was free of charge meant that the museum could get up and running quickly and has allowed it to survive. Tiltman wishes every community could facilitate the same situation. “Without the room everything people have brought us would have ended up in the skip.” 

Visitors 

Last year around 700 people came through the door, and volunteers visited another 300. The museum doesn’t get many tourists. “We have to work with what we’ve got,” says Tiltman. Visitors come mainly from the local community, but the museum has also welcomed a group from Australia who had family links to Cefn Mawr.

Future plans 

“To keep going,” says Tiltman. When the museum started, nobody was sure it would work, so he is happy it has proved successful and is keen for it to carry on. 

Tilda Coleman is a freelance writer

cefnmawrmuseum.org.uk

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