18th March 2022

SMAG’s closure second anniversary marked
Residents campaigning for a realistic new home for Swindon’s Museum and Art Gallery gathered together today. The occasion? To mark the two-year anniversary of the closure of the previous facility at Apsley House in Bath Road. Thus supporters gathered outside Apsley House with cake, candles, a card and a croc!

SMAG's closure second anniversary marked - group of people outside Apsley House

Apsley House, home to Swindon’s Museum and Art Gallery since the 1930s, closed on 18 March 2020 as the country went into Covid-induced lockdown. But, unlike other leisure and educational sites around the country, this much-loved facility, remains closed.

Apsley House with a 2 balloon
Photo by Pear Lucia Barcoe – I imagine the symbolism of the No 2 in shadow is evident. Says it all TBH
Designated site of rapturous applause

Swindon Borough Council have resolved to sell Apsley House. They instead plan to incorporate a new museum/gallery in the proposed cultural quarter in the town centre. Meanwhile, SBC plans to alter some rooms on the first floor of the Civic Offices in Euclid Street to house some of the art and museum collections.

The Friends of the Museum and Art Gallery

The Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (FSMAG) launched in 1993. The charity’s aim being to help develop, maintain and enhance the best possible museum and art gallery for Swindon. All for the benefit of Swindon residents and visitors to the town.

Since then, FSMAG has acted as local champions. They’ve provided input to management. And they’ve ensured formal community involvement in council decision-making about the museum and art gallery.

We’ve been without SMAG for two full years now,’ said the Friends’ spokesperson. ‘So’ve had little opportunity to view the art and ceramics collections. And no opportunity to view the museum and archaeology collections during this time.

‘We completely accept that Apsley House’s internal layout made it less than ideal for accessibility. But it’s very clear that any next home for the museum and art gallery collections will not be a ‘temporary solution’.

Experienced professionals in the property and development industries tell us the cultural quarter will take decades to finance and construct. So that means the Civic Offices will in fact be a permanent site for the collections.

‘Creating new exhibition spaces for important historical artefacts, local archaeological finds and our nationally renowned British art collection is expensive if done well. And it does need doing well to protect the collections and make the experience a positive one for visitors and researchers.

‘We need to understand how the Council proposes to deliver accessible new exhibition space within their budget. A budget that started off at £1.8million in 2019 but has since shrunk to £400,000. We’re mystified and don’t understand how that can be the case.

We’re very keen to fulfil our role of local champions for SMAG. Thus we trust that our gentle marking of the second anniversary of its closure will encourage SBC to share that thinking with us and the people of Swindon.’

More on the museum and art gallery here: