The Museum of Cardiff

1. Questions to the Minister for Economy – in the Senedd on 28 June 2023.

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Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru


3. What discussions has the Government held with Cardiff Council and other partners about the future of the Museum of Cardiff? OQ59732

Photo of Dawn Bowden Dawn Bowden Labour 1:52, 28 June 2023

Can I thank Rhys ab Owen for that question? The management and funding of the Museum of Cardiff is, of course, a matter for Cardiff Council, but Welsh Government officials have met and corresponded with Cardiff Council, its museum staff and the Cardiff Museum Development Trust, advising on benchmarking museum services, museum accreditation standards, funding, income generation, governance and operating models.

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru 1:53, 28 June 2023


Thank you for that response, Minister.

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru

Thank you for the support towards Cardiff museum. I welcome also the recent investment in the museum. I think we can all agree it's important that our capital city has a place that highlights our rich and diverse history. I also know you agree with me, Minister, that attendance numbers are only one measure of success and that museums make a huge contribution in so many different ways. However, there is a concern with the attendance numbers of the museum. There's a concern that the museum is not well advertised, that the people of Cardiff don't even know of its existence, let alone tourists, and there are accessibility issues getting into the Old Library in Cardiff. How will you work with other partners to promote the museum and to ensure that it's accessible to all? Diolch.

Photo of Dawn Bowden Dawn Bowden Labour

Well, diolch, Rhys ab Owen. I think those points are very valid points, and I was very pleased to see that, just last week, Cardiff Council has now signed a lease agreement with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and that's going to enable the museum to remain within the Old Library building for a further five years. And that's a positive development, because, clearly, that's going to give some stability to the museum and the council to examine options and to undertake feasibility for any future moves. But it also gives them the opportunity to promote the museum more effectively and to introduce those accessibility measures that you've quite rightly outlined as being an important step towards ensuring that the museum becomes something that is a more attractive place to visit. Because it's clearly one of Wales's key local museums, and it's got an excellent reputation for outreach work and supporting community groups and telling the diverse stories of people in our capital city. So, I very much hope that the partnership with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama will help to deliver the objectives that both you and I want to see for that museum. 

Photo of Joel James Joel James Conservative 1:55, 28 June 2023

I think we can all agree, Deputy Minister, that the Museum of Cardiff is a vital tourist attraction for our capital city, as well as an important host for educational visits and cultural events. I fully appreciate that Cardiff Council faces difficult choices because of the shortfall in funding, but I believe it was extremely shortsighted to have even thought about making Cardiff museum a mobile attraction, because it provides another reason for people not to visit the city centre. In my mind, Deputy Minister, for a city such as Cardiff and the history that it has to not have a dedicated museum can only lead to reputational damage. It will simply show that we don't care about our culture and have no pride in our past. With this in mind, what conversations have you had with the council to ensure that it fully understands the wider ramifications of not having this museum based in the city centre, and what analysis have you made of the council's specific heritage and cultural fundraising capabilities? Thank you. 

Photo of Dawn Bowden Dawn Bowden Labour 1:56, 28 June 2023

Can I thank Joel James for that further question? I think in my response to Rhys ab Owen's question, I made it very clear that we have been in consultation with Cardiff Council, that we've talked to the Cardiff Museum Development Trust, and that we've talked to them about benchmarking museum services and about museum accreditation services. We were very clear with them that the prospect of moving the Cardiff museum out of a static venue and into a mobile arrangement would put at risk their accreditation, and by putting at risk their accreditation, they put at risk various forms of funding.

Now, what we've seen is that Cardiff Council, the same as every other council in the country, was faced with serious financial issues and financial choices that they had to make, and this was one area that they sought consultation from the public on. As a result of that consultation, they've listened to what people have had to say and they are actually staying in the city centre in the Old Library. Again, as I mentioned to Rhys ab Owen, they're entering into a new partnership with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, which I hope will very much see a sustained future for the museum. 

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 1:57, 28 June 2023

I'm aware that Cardiff Council has worked closely with the Museum of Cardiff as part of the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' to ensure that museums are not perpetuating an uncritical eye towards our approach to our colonial past, and that's a very important contribution. They also lead on Cardiff Fusion, which Joel James briefly referred to, to encourage everyone, including those living in disadvantaged areas, to understand and appreciate culture and heritage. So, could you tell us a bit more about how the Welsh Government is working with the museum to ensure that the most disadvantaged communities are really encouraged to visit and learn about their history in a way that reflects the diversity of our historic past?  

Photo of Dawn Bowden Dawn Bowden Labour 1:58, 28 June 2023

Can I thank Jenny Rathbone for that question? I think it's a very important point that she raises. The Museum of Cardiff is certainly an exemplar in those positive relationships with diverse communities, ensuring their involvement, representation and inclusion, which is the most important. But in terms of the wider point that you make, Jenny, we've awarded £642,000 via the anti-racist Wales culture, heritage and sport fund to museum sector organisations, and that funding specifically is to work with local museums to support them through training, mentoring, grants to reflect and represent black, Asian and minority ethnic communities' histories and cultures in their collections, displays, events and learning programmes. We're already seeing that that funding is leading to change in the way that local museums are operating. For example, a number of local museums have conducted reviews of their collections to identify items that can help give a more honest reflection of the locality's history, and training sessions have built greater understanding amongst museum staff and volunteers around engaging a new audience and co-creating with diverse communities. Because one of the things that clearly is so important if museums like Cardiff museum are to thrive, when people walk into that museum, they want to see themselves and their histories reflected, don't they? So, that is very much the objective that we've been working towards through the anti-racist Wales culture fund and other initiatives to promote greater inclusion from disadvantaged communities as well. 

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru 2:00, 28 June 2023

Deputy Minister, I understand—contrary, perhaps, to what you were saying—that it's still the plan to move the museum from that building, and that they are still looking for an alternative site. So, I wonder if you could perhaps explain the support your officials are giving in terms of finding a suitable location. As you've said, rightly, it is a very important museum, not just for Cardiff, but for Wales, attracting visitors. It's a high-quality museum also in terms of accessibility. I've been contacted by a number of disability groups because of the accessibility of the interpretation. This required a huge amount of investment, which was secured; I'm concerned to see that investment lost without there being clarity in terms of where this museum is actually going to be located. So, I wonder if you could clarify in terms of those specific discussions. 

Photo of Dawn Bowden Dawn Bowden Labour 2:01, 28 June 2023

I think it's a very fair point that you've raised, Heledd Fychan. I was literally only made aware two or three days ago that Cardiff Council had actually signed a lease agreement with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to enable the museum to stay in the Old Library, so literally that's kind of hot off the press, and I don't have the detail of that and what it will mean at this point in time. But, as I said in my answer to Rhys ab Owen, I would expect that lease contract with Cardiff Council to take on board the fact that, if that museum is to stay in the location that it is, and that lease has been signed for five years, there's a significant amount of work that would need to be done to make that building and the collections that are in it as accessible as possible. That's certainly an objective of Welsh Government, and I know it would be an objective of Cardiff Council, and it was one of their concerns about staying there, as you quite rightly point out. So, as soon as I've got more detail on that, I'd be happy to share that with you.