A council proposal to turn the Museum of Cardiff into a “mobile attraction” has been strongly criticised by museum and heritage representatives. The move would result in the loss of the museum’s current building and most of its staff.
Cardiff Council outlined the proposal ahead of the launch of its 2023/24 budget consultation on this week.
A draft budget plan describes how the council had hoped to move the museum from its current location in the Old Library in The Hayes to a more suitable venue but found that this would require significant capital investment in addition to the museum’s annual revenue grant of £498,000.
Instead, the council will ask residents to vote on a proposal to “take the museum out of the Old Library and make it a mobile attraction”, which it says would save £266,000 a year.
“The museums displays and activities would move around Cardiff, and a small key team would be retained to continue with community engagement and manage the ongoing care of the collection,” says the consultation.
The council says the proposal would allow the museum to be reopened in a permanent home in future “if a suitable location was found and funding secured”.
Residents will be asked to vote on two potential options: making the museum a mobile attraction, or keeping it open and “finding the savings elsewhere”.
The plans have caused shock in the museum and heritage sector, with Cardiff-based conservator Jane Henderson warning that the move is an attempt by the council to close the museum “by stealth”.
The community-based organisation, Heritage & Cultural Exchange, said “a closure or moving to virtual museum would be a tragedy”.
Museums Association director Sharon Heal said museum sector bodies would work together to “make the strongest possible case” to retain the museum.
She said: “It’s a real shame that Cardiff Council has chosen to consult on closing Cardiff Museum. We know that local authorities are facing a tough time and finding it difficult to make ends meet, however closing a much-loved local museum is not going to solve the council’s financial woes.
“Cardiff Museum is award-winning and its staff have worked with communities across the city and surrounding area to make sure that diverse stories are captured for future generations. To take that away is short sighted and will mean a vital part of Cardiff’s cultural landscape and the story of the nation’s capital is missing. The Museums Association is working with the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales to make the strongest possible case for the retention of the museum for the people of Wales.”
Previously known as the Cardiff Story Museum, the Museum of Cardiff opened in 2011 and displays objects related to the history of the city. Earlier this year it won the Visit Wales Gold Award for delivering a memorable visitor experience.
The public consultation will open on 23 December.