June 18, 2024
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By Chris Haines

A committee was told that staff are ready to remove priceless artworks from the National Museum Cardiff due to the danger of damage caused by rain from the roof.

Jane Richardson is the chief executive officer of Museum Wales and she has expressed concern about her national collection which contains paintings by Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, etc.

She told the Senedd culture committee that if there was a heavy storm or rain coming, the staff should be on alert so they could come in at night and remove the paintings from the walls.

I’m not exaggerating – this is exactly what our employees do. “We never compromise safety in the workplace… But that’s the reality for my colleagues at this moment.”

Four buckets are catching the rainwater just outside of her office.

Ms Richardson said: “We don’t have adequate storage, which means that the collection has been kept in unsuitable conditions… our conservators cannot access it.”

The roof of National Museum Cardiff is made up of about 50 structures, and the critical maintenance work at the museum will cost around PS25m.

She said: “It is a great worry for the future of this building if we do not act.”

Ms Richardson warned committee members of the potential disaster that could result from reducing capital funding.

She said that she had alerted Welsh Government about the problem. The Museum Wales Estate has a PS90m worth of problems.

She stated that Museum Wales struggles to maintain critical works, and collections would be seriously affected if capital budgets are reduced.

She said to members, “We are facing a huge backlog in maintenance …. This problem has reached a worrying level.

Ms Richardson said: “At National Museum Cardiff, we are facing a serious problem in terms of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work.

If we don’t address these issues, we struggle to function.

Ms Richardson stated that a revenue budget with a flat rate would be difficult, but Museum Wales was told to design based on an important cut.

She said: “That’s going to be a huge challenge for us.” We are also struggling to keep up with the rising cost of doing business.

The pandemic has had an impact on Museum Wales’ commercial operations, despite the visitor numbers recovering more or less to pre-Covid.

Richardson, who said she was modeling a 10% reduction, told MSs some of the most important revenue streams such as corporate hiring and filming have “pretty well gone”.

Ms Richardson warned that Museum Wales is facing a major challenge in the coming year, stating: “We will likely have to use reserves to cover pay increases because they are more expensive than what we had budgeted.”

The museum will undergo a transformation in the coming year to accommodate a changing financial environment.

This means that we will probably have to become a smaller Museum.

She informed the committee that some programs will be discontinued and hours of operation may change.

Heledd said that Merthyr and Rhymney’s deputy minister Dawn Bowden has denied the existence of a risk for collections.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister said: “She now must bring an urgent declaration to the Senedd to explain how the Welsh Government works with Amgueddfa Cymru, and the National Library of Wales, to protect our nation treasures.”

Tom Giffard (shadow minister for the Conservatives) has criticised the Welsh Government’s “extremely slow” response.

He stated: “On a great many matters that were well within her purview, Labour Arts Minister has deflected her responsibility, neglected her duties and opted for expensive overseas trips and photo opportunities.

The Welsh tourism, culture and sports sectors have suffered from the frequent inaction of Dawn Bowden.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government responded: “We are very concerned about the safety of our national collections.”

Amgueddfa Cymru has received more than PS4.7m in capital maintenance as part of the grant it receives for the current financial year. This money was used to tackle some of their most urgent maintenance issues.

The museum assured us the collection is safe, even though we were aware of longer-term issues.

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