Campaigners have welcomed a decision by Cardiff Council to drop plans to turn the Museum of Cardiff into a mobile attraction, which some feared would amount to “closure by stealth”.
The council confirmed this week that the museum would remain open at its current location in the city’s Old Library building for now, with a view to looking at alternative locations in future.
A statement from the council on its budget proposals said: “The proposal to reduce the offer at the Museum of Cardiff and/or switch to a mobile-based service has been removed. Instead, we will work with the trustees of the museum to secure a sustainable future, including looking at options for delivering the service at an alternative location.”
The council had proposed moving the museum out of its current building and making most of its staff redundant, which it said would save £266,000 a year.
The museum had stopped actively collecting or accepting donations during the council’s budget consultation, leading to fears that the move was a foregone conclusion. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is due to take up residence in the building in the near future.
The proposal to turn the museum into a mobile attraction was supported by 57.1% of Cardiff residents, according to the consultation.
However museum and heritage sector bodies strongly opposed the move, warning the implications had not been fully thought through. The Museums Association and the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales said the plans would result in the loss of a vital community resource with a significant social impact.
Questions were also raised about how the museum would maintain its Accreditation status and care for its collections without a dedicated space.
Campaigners held a demonstration earlier this month calling for the museum to be retained as a physical space. Jane Henderson, a conservation professor and trustee of the Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales, described the council’s u-turn as a “big win”.
Henderson said: “I am delighted that the value of the Museum of Cardiff has been recognised as an integral part of Cardiff’s life and identity by the hundreds of citizens who wrote letters, signed petitions, marched, and spoke up. We are also delighted that their voice has been heard by Cardiff City Council.
“Our attention must turn to building a more secure future for the museum that matches Cardiff’s ambitions to be stronger, fairer, greener, city. For this to succeed we need investment in displays, continued support for partnerships and return to collecting as these are all essential for the lifeblood of the museum.
“In the longer term and in partnership with other services, user groups, and experts, options for an enhanced development of the museum can be considered. The museum has shown what it can do already – but like the recent announcements of massive investment in museums in Wrexham and Swansea, we know that a museum can be a catalyst for growth, inspiration and unity.
“I and many other museum professionals look forward to supporting the staff and trustees of the museum to deliver this for all of us.”
Henderson hailed the success of the campaign, adding: “This reminds all of us who care about museums that our advocacy campaigns are always active and needed, we have masses of support in the public but we must continue to deliver on their support and demonstrate our relevance.”
Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, said: “We are delighted that the proposal to close the Museum of Cardiff has been taken out of the budget plans and that the council is now committed to investigating a sustainable future for the museum.
“It is testament to the hard work of campaigners that the original proposal to close the permanent site and turn it into a 'pop-up' museum has been shelved. It has been a pleasure to work with local campaigners, the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales and community groups to secure the future of the museum, and we will now lend every effort and our collective expertise to build a sustainable future for the Museum of Cardiff.”