Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture Sport and Tourism
Local museums are an integral part of healthy and vibrant communities. They encourage active participation in culture, protect our heritage, provide educational opportunities and contribute to our tourism industry. Over eighty local museums in Wales, both public and third sector, participate in the UK Accreditation Scheme for Museums. They care for over a million objects and specimens, many of which have been donated by local people in the expectation that their gifts would be preserved and used to educate current and future generations. The stories these gifts embody are unique and irreplaceable but the museums which care for them and make them accessible are vulnerable.
Most local museums, including those in the third sector, rely on Local Authority funding or other support. However, they are amongst the non-statutory services provided by Local Authorities making them particularly at risk to cuts and closure in current economic circumstances. In January this year, my predecessor wrote to all local authorities asking them to be mindful of the value of such services.
When the Welsh Government published the first Museums Strategy for Wales in 2010, it acknowledged that recovery from the global financial crisis would be difficult. I am keen to identify ways of ensuring that museum services continue to be provided at a local level. I have therefore commissioned an Expert Panel to review the impact of proposed funding and organisational changes by local authorities on local museums. Information will be sought from each local authority on the likely impact of proposed changes on Accredited museums.
The review will be undertaken by a small expert panel chaired by Dr Haydn Edwards, retired Principal and Chief Executive of Coleg Menai who has a background in education and science. Dr Edwards is also Vice President of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and a non-executive Director of Estyn. The other panel members are Professor Gaynor Kavanagh, who is Dean of Cardiff School of Art and Design and a qualified curator whose specialisms include curatorial practices and museum ethics; Adrian Babbidge, a recognised specialist in museum management, finance and legal issues, and a representative from the Welsh Local Government Association. The Panel will be asked to produce a report by Spring 2015. I am grateful to the Chair and the members of the Review Panel for agreeing to complete this important work.
The Panel's conclusions will be included in their report which will outline the position on an all Wales basis, highlighting best practice and any areas of concern.
In considering the position on a Wales-wide basis, the Panel will be further tasked to consider whether alternative service delivery models would provide more efficient and effective museum services, based on collaboration and joint procurement.
The review will also consider existing collaborations between local museums, People’s Collection Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to increase access to collections, share knowledge and promote museums as places to visit.
Since 2004, the Welsh Government through CyMAL division has led a strategic approach to local museum development in partnership with local authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association and the Federation of Museums and Galleries in Wales. Over £5m has been invested in developing local museum provision, delivering a national training scheme and encouraging regional partnerships. Wales published the first national museum strategy in the UK which has received widespread support from the sector. I intend that the findings of the Expert Review Panel report will be actively used to inform our next national strategy from 2016.