31 August 2021

Save our Museum and Art Gallery

A SMAG Summary So Far Museum and art gallery summary - croc graphic

Museum and art gallery summary
In recent weeks the Swindon Advertiser have published several articles apropos the museum and art gallery. So what follows is a summary of those articles from the start of August to date.


4th August – Swindon Museum and Art Gallery campaigners promised announcement next week

https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/19487704.swindon-museum-art-gallery-campaigners-promised-announcement-next-week/

Thousands of people campaigning against the closure of Swindon’s museum have been urged to be patient as council chiefs prepare to unveil their plans for the future. Swindon Council has come under fire locally and nationally for closing the building in Bath Road because it fell foul of disability discrimination laws.

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition organised by the Friends of Swindon Museum
and Art Gallery, calling for the facility to reopen. The council has also been criticised by the sector’s professional body, the Museums Association. And by the Council for British Archaeology. Campaigners have accused the authority of closing down the museum with no clear plan for its replacement. But cabinet member for culture and heritage, councillor Robert Jandy, said the council would make a major announcement next week.

Work behind the scenes

“A lot of work is going on behind the scenes. Nothing is going into storage. All appropriate stakeholders are involved in in-depth conversations. Cllr Jandy has previously said that the museum building needs hundreds of thousands of pounds of repairs. That aside from extra work to make it compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. There’s a suggestion that the council might us other authority buildings to showcase the collections in the medium term. But conservation bodies say this could be a poor substitute. And further that the long-term scheme lies mired in uncertainty.

The Council for British Archaeology executive director Neil Redfern said in an open letter to the council: “As we understand it there is no detailed plan in place for the new facilities or agreed budget and timescale for delivery of the cultural quarter.”

6th August: Swindon Museum and Art Gallery campaigners encouraged by announcement promise

Full article here: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/19493826.swindon-museum-art-gallery-campaigners-encouraged-announcement-promise/

A PRESSURE group battling to get Swindon’s civic museum reopened has welcomed an assurance by a council chief that its treasures won’t go into storage. Swindon Council is preparing to make a significant announcement about its plans to replace the museum and art gallery in Bath Road, which it has controversially closed.

The authority kept the facility shut as the country emerged from lockdown, saying the building needs expensive repairs and other work to make it comply with disability laws.

This week cabinet member for culture and heritage Robert Jandy told the Adver that it wouldnb’t be putting items into storage as it developed its plans.

Ultimately, it wants to see a new museum and art gallery built in the new Kimmerfields cultural quarter in the town centre. In the meantime, there has been speculation that the council might use other civic buildings to display art and artefacts.

Said SOMAG

The Save our Museum and Art Gallery group said that, until realistic funding for the long-term project was in place, the collections must remain at least as accessible to the public as they are at the moment.

Spokeswoman Linda Kasmaty said:

“We welcome the council’s aspirations for a purpose-built museum and art gallery in a new cultural quarter. But it’s clear that the coming years represent a challenge in securing funding for any major construction and infrastructure project.

“The time lapse between closing the current museum and art gallery and building a new cultural quarter could be many years, or even decades. We’re most concerned that many items that the people of Swindon could normally see in that space would have to go into storage for all that time. So it’s very encouraging to hear the cabinet member responsible for this to say that nothing is going into storage.”

10th August – Thousands sign petition calling for reopening of Gallery and Museum

You’ll find the petition set up by Friends of Swindon Museum & Art Gallery on change.org – signed by 3,337 people thus far.

Last week the new cabinet member for culture, heritage and leisure Robert Jandy urged patience from supporters of the space. He said the council will make an announcement about the future of the collections and how they’ll be displayed this week. Further that they wouldn’t go into storage.

21st August – Swindon Museum & Art Gallery could be re-opened on a temporary basis

Full article here: https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/19527447.swindon-museum-art-gallery-re-opened-temporary-basis/

Apsley House in Bath Road closed at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. And it didn’t reopen with the summer’s relaxation of restrictions.

Swindon Borough Council said the Grade II-listed Regency building is no longer fit for purpose. And further it would cost too much to repair even temporarily. While the authority has announced ambitious plans for a new museum and art gallery, many feared mothballing of the collections for years until a new home was built.

But now, after talks between the new cabinet member for culture, heritage and leisure Robert Jandy and members of the campaign group Save Our Museum & Art Gallery, the council says Apsley House will be among the options for a temporary home for the collections.

“We want all our residents to have the chance to see our wonderful collection. It is a collection to be proud of – let’s share it far and wide.”

Linda Kasmaty, chairman of the Friends of SMAG and founder of the Save Our Museum group said: “Many of our group, including some heritage professionals and friends of the museum and art gallery, were very concerned that Swindon residents, who collectively own the art and artefacts, wouldn’t have access to the larger part of our collections for years.” 

What the SOMAG group say

Repair work to Apsley House

The Save our Museum and Art Gallery campaign members have got information about the defects that have appeared in Apsley House since the building closed when lockdown began.

Items obtained under a Freedom of Information request are:
1. Leaking rainwater downpipes and a roof leak. They’ve allowed rainwater into the building leading to mould growth in certain areas.
2. The need for replacement boilers and …
3. … a new fire alarm.

Does this constitute ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds of repairs, aside from extra work to make it compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act‘?  As Councillor Jandy claimed?

Alterations to improve accessibility

Apsley House is a Grade II listed building. Ergo it doesn’t legally have to comply with the DDA regulations on accessibility for disabled visitors. Full accessibility for all would be the ideal situation yes. But the fact that Apsley House isn’t compliant is not a valid reason for closure.

In 2019 Swindon Borough Council allocated £400,000 for the refurbishment of Apsley House. They’ve still not spent it.

Government funding for museum buildings

At the beginning of July this year the Council had the opportunity to apply for Government funding under the MEND (Museum Estate and Development) scheme for repair work and accessibility improvements for all the Museum buildings in its care.

So far the Council has not provided any evidence that it has applied for this funding.

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Curator

Sophie Cummings left her post as Curator in January 2020 to take up a new post elsewhere. Swindon Borough Council failed to appoint a replacement.

See also: https://swindonian.me/category/museum-and-art-gallery/

Why not join the Friends of Swindon museum and art gallery? More information about them here: https://friendsofsmag.org

How you can help


Born Again Swindonian Logo

Sign up to receive awesome Swindon content in your inbox, every week.