National Museum Cardiff avoids closure

Cardiff (Wales). The new Minister of Culture for Wales wanted to be reassuring, on April 17, in front of the deputies of the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament. “The National Museum Cardiff will not close”, assured Lesley Griffiths, appointed in March. The building, built in 1912, faces several maintenance problems. Leaks and faults in the electrical system could endanger visitors and staff as well as the collections. It was the director of the museum, Jane Richardson, who sounded the alarm during an interview with the BBC in mid-April. “Unless the necessary funds are raised, the building will have to close”she warned.

Significant drop in public subsidies

The National Museum in Cardiff faces the same situation as other cultural institutions in Wales, as throughout the United Kingdom: a budgetary restriction to cover public deficits. Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru), the body which manages the seven national museums of Wales, has had to face a cut of 3 million pounds (€3.5 million) in its grants from the local government, responsible for culture. According to Jane Henderson, Professor of Conservation at Cardiff University, this resulted in a 10.5% reduction in the budget. As it records an annual deficit of 1.5 million pounds (1.75 M€), it had to reduce its 2024-2025 budget by 4.5 million pounds (5.26 M€) before the end of the month Of March. Jane Richardson has suggested around 90 jobs could be lost by December.

Vaughan Gething, who became Prime Minister of Wales on March 20, after the departure of his predecessor, clearly assumed these financial restrictions for culture. “I prefer that we have the money to provide excellent public services and support the growth of the economy, he said during a press conference. Having priorities means having to make choices and that is what we are going to do. » In this case, the leader (Labour) of local government has made funding the NHS – the national health service – his top priority.

Towards a possible debate in Parliament

Welsh MPs do not see it that way. “People in Wales should never find themselves choosing between going to see a GP and a Van Gogh”said MP Alun Davies, in reference to the Portrait of the artist (1887), currently on display in Cardiff. For this Labor elected official, access to the national collection is important “for our identity, not only as a nation, but also as a family and a community”.

After the announcement of the budget cuts, a petition was circulated in support of the three institutions concerned: Museum Wales, but also the National Library and the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments. With more than 11,000 signatures, the text crossed the threshold of 10,000 votes necessary to be examined by the Petitions Committee and give rise to a debate within the Senedd.

Lesley Griffiths said she would continue to work with Museum Wales to try to find new funding solutions by mid-May.

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