Family-Friendly National Museum of Wales Set to Become 'Niche' Art Gallery despite Rising Popularity; Archaeology and Science to Go outside City

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Family-Friendly National Museum of Wales Set to Become 'Niche' Art Gallery despite Rising Popularity; Archaeology and Science to Go outside City


Byline: Matt Withers

THE National Museum in Cardiff is set to be transformed into Wales' first national art gallery under controversial new plans.

The museum-a popular school holiday destination for families all over Wales - already intends to move all its archeological artefacts away from the city centre to the National History Museum in St Fagans.

But under proposals being examined by a consultancy firm, its scientific exhibits would also be moved to a new venue in the city, leaving the building to be used solely as a magnet for arts enthusiasts.

Although consultants London-based ABL Consulting have yet to draw up a final report, the Western Mail understands they are likely to go for this option rather than look to find another venue for an art gallery.

A new building, probably to the rear of the current museum in Cardiff's Cathays Park, would be built to house the museum's science exhibits.

But questions have been raised about whether the flagship building should be used for the more niche interest of arts buffs rather than being utilised as a family-friendly venue for all.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Peter Black warned that the museum"s hould not water down a successful and valuable educational attraction in pursuit of a cut-price attempt to fulfil a One Wales Government pledge".

Figures just released show that in the financial year 2007-08, National Museum Cardiff had 353,509 visitors through its doors, a rise of more than 50,000 on the previous year.

A feasibility study looking at the long-term issue of establishing a National Gallery for Wales was commissioned as part of the "One Wales" coalition agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Consultants ABL will report back to a steering group convened by the Welsh Assembly Government consisting of National Museum Wales, the Arts Council of Wales and the National Library of Wales in two months.

A spokesman for National Museum Wales insisted nothing had been decided and said: "What is happening is we have commissioned a consultancy to look at a variety of options to do with the establishment of a national art gallery for Wales - whether that's feasible or not, where it should be. …

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