Struggling Royal Cornwall Museum forced to close for eight months

Staff made redundant as museum takes ‘radical actions’ to secure future
Closures Independent Museums
Tilda Coleman
The Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro is closing for at least eight months in January, leaving eight members of staff redundant.  

According to a statement on the institution’s website, the reason for the closure is to “allow for a reboot of the museum”.

Julie Seyler, the chair of trustees, said the decision to close was “difficult and painful”, and that “the board made this decision faced with the twin drivers of declining income levels and low audience numbers”.

She added: “We believe the situation has reached a tipping point and that without urgent and radical actions the museum and its collections will face an uncertain future.”

Urgent roof repairs will also take place over the closure period, as serious leaks threaten to damage the exhibits.

Seyler said that the museum needs to “modernise” and build a public programme “that has greater relevance and reach”. A Cornwall-wide consultation, beginning with members, staff, volunteers, museum sector employees, specialist networks and schools, will take place while the museum is shut.

The museum’s longer-term plan, which Seyler hopes to see in place in the next five years, is to work with the Cornwall Museums Partnership charity to build a new shared collections store to help with the museum’s storage issues, as well as those of other museums in the county.

Emmie Kell, CEO of Cornwall Museums Partnership, said the charity supports the efforts being made to secure the museum’s future, and recognises the challenging funding environment.

She said: “Run by an independent charitable trust, the museum is responsible for generating all its own income to fund the rising costs of the historic building and collections it looks after on behalf of the public. We support the decision to review the museum’s business model so that it can increase the impact it delivers for the communities it exists to serve.”

Kell added that the work-based training programme Citizen Curators, which the Royal Cornwall Museum takes part in, will continue at the museum over the closure period and is unaffected.  

Funds from the museum’s sale of two paintings in 2010 will not be used for the reboot or repairs, as Seyler said “the endowment created from these sales is ringfenced and remains untouched”.

Schools that have booked to visit will still be able to come, and will have the gallery spaces to themselves, and members will be able to access the library. The Truro cafe and art shop, which are housed in the museum building, will also stay open.

The eight-month closure period will not count as time on annual membership cards.  

Cornwall Council said it recognised that a difficult decision had been made, and that it is committed to supporting the Royal Cornwall Museum as it creates a plan for the future.

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