Museum reopenings in South Wales are being disrupted by local lockdowns, with several venues closing and at least one postponing a planned opening.
The borough of Caerphilly has been under local lockdown since 8 September due to rising Covid cases. Rhondda Cynon Taf followed on 17 September, and Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport on 22 September.
People are not able to travel into or out of these areas without a reasonable excuse, and meeting indoors with another household is banned.
Museums are still allowed to open, but several have announced temporary closures. The National Roman Legion Museum near Newport, part of Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales), announced it was closing on 22 September, three weeks after reopening.
A spokesperson for National Museum Wales said: “The Welsh Government has introduced lockdown measures in Newport following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the area. The National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon will therefore be closed to the public until further notice.
“Our priority is the safety of our staff and visitors, and helping to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Our other national museums remain open to the public. We will continue to monitor the situation in other areas of Wales.”
Caerphilly Castle, managed by Cadw, has been closed since 8 September. The venue is offering refunds to ticket holders. A Welsh government spokesperson said the castle was the only Cadw heritage site that was closed.
The Welsh Mining Experience in Rhondda Cynon Taf – part of Rhondda Heritage Park – has also announced it is temporarily closing. A statement from the attraction on Twitter said this was because staff had been redeployed to the Welsh government’s Test, Trace, Protect system.
In the same borough, Cynon Valley Museum has postponed a reopening planned for 19 September. The museum’s trustees made the decision to close before the local lockdown had been announced.
Museum co-ordinator William Tregaskes said the museum had always been aware that a rise in local infection rates might mean postponing the reopening date and that the local community had responded positively.
“The museum made the decision because of infection rates growing – we didn’t want to contribute to that by reopening,” said Tregaskes. The museum has been creating online exhibitions during its closure, and will continue with planned online events.
“It hasn’t affected a lot of our digital engagement, which is a much larger part of our operation than it previously was,” he said.
The museum will monitor infection rates to decide when it is safe to reopen.
Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery in Merthyr Tydfil is remaining open, but is warning visitors that it may ask for proof of address.
Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust’s marketing officer Rhianwen Long said the service was still assessing what the impact of the restrictions would be. “We know there is a level of customer confidence that needs to be regained and of course being in a local lockdown again may impact further on services,” said Long.
She said the trust had “no intention” of closing the museum unless told to by official guidance, but that asking for proof of address would help control the virus. The trust is already collecting visitor data for track and trace purposes.
Newport Museum and Art Gallery is also continuing to welcome visitors after reopening on 11 August.
When the local lockdowns were announced, many museums in the region had not yet reopened after closing in March. These include the Winding House museum in New Tredegar and Aber Valley Heritage Museum, which have not announced any plans for reopening.
In Bridgend, Porthcawl museum is still closed, as are five museums in Bleanau Gwent. A spokesperson for Blaenau Gwent Council said: “All of the museums are run by volunteers, most of whom are vulnerable due to their age and health. Some of them are also located in buildings that are currently closed to the public.
“Some are reviewing their operation on a regular basis, others have decided to close until the new year. At present none of the museums are open for the above reasons so the new local measures will not impact on their operation”.
Today, the Welsh government announced further local lockdowns in Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli, which will come into force this weekend.