The review was commissioned by the Welsh government last October and was due to be published in the spring. In his introduction to the report, Haydn Edwards, the chair of the review’s independent panel and vice president of Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales), warned that budget cuts would lead to reduced opening times, staff cuts and “many other signs of services under stress leading inevitably to museum closures”.
In response to these challenges, the review has published 10 recommendations that should be prioritised by local authorities, the Welsh government and other agencies.
These include the creation of a body to safeguard and develop collections, as well as three regional bodies to provide operational direction, management and support to local museums.
The report also calls on the government to produce guidance on entry charges and to establish a national museums council to provide collective leadership and coordinated activities for the sector.
The government, local authorities and other governing and sector bodies have also been urged to collaborate to identify how to support and develop the museum workforce so that the standards outlined in the charter can be achieved.
Other recommendations in the report include offering local authority museums relief from national non-domestic rates and ensuring that councils reviewing their museum services look at all options, including alternative delivery models and closure, in consultation with government.
Finally, the panel recommended that Welsh ministers should be formally responsible for supporting and developing all public museums in Wales.
“The report recognises the value and importance of the local museum sector and the expert panel would want the museum sector to flourish and develop,” Edwards said in his introduction. “However, many changes are urgently required if we are to avoid the inevitable decline and even disappearance of parts of this sector.”
Sharon Heal, the director of the Museums Association (MA), welcomed the report’s recommendations.
“The report recognises the significant role that museums play in their local communities and also acknowledges the tough funding climate for these museums,” she said. “There are some significant recommendations in the report and the MA supports the call for the establishment of a transformation fund and also the recommendation that ministers should be responsible for supporting and developing all public museums – not just those that are directly funded.
The MA also welcomes the development of a museums charter that would set out museums’ responsibilities to the public. Museums in Wales already deliver positive social impact for their communities and I would hope that this would be enshrined in any new charter.”
Rachel Silverson, the president of the Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales, said: “We are pleased to see that the report has looked at radical changes to Welsh museums and we hope that these recommendations may contribute to the sector becoming more resilient in the future. We note that taking the recommendations forward will require considerable resources and commitment from the Welsh government.”
Ken Skates, the deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism, said he could consider and respond to the review’s recommendations in due course.