By Chris Haines
A committee heard 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 that 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: “Our storage is inadequate – that’s to say, the collection has been kept in unsuitable conditions… our conservators cannot access it.”
She stated that the National Museum Cardiff roof consists of about 50 structures, and the critical maintenance work at the museum will cost around PS25m. She said: “If this building doesn’t get fixed, its future is very worrying.”
Ms Richardson warned committee members of the potential disaster that could result from a reduction in capital funding. She said that she had alerted Welsh Government about the problem.
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 continued: “At National Museum Cardiff, we are facing a serious problem in terms of mechanical, electrical and piping works. We will be unable to operate if we don’t address these issues.
Ms Richardson stated that a flat budget for revenue would be difficult, but Museum Wales was told to design based on an important cut. She said: “This will be a huge challenge for us.” We are also struggling to keep up with the rising cost of doing business.
Ms Richardson said that the pandemic has had an impact on Museum Wales commercial operations, despite visitors numbers recovering more or less to pre-Covid. She told MSs she was estimating a 10% reduction and that important revenue streams such as corporate hiring and filming have been “pretty well gone”.
Ms Richardson warned that Museum Wales is facing a major challenge in the coming year, saying “We will likely have to use reserves to cover pay increases because they are more expensive than what we had budgeted.”
We will have to change the way we operate and redesign our museum in order to adjust to this new economic landscape. 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 Dawn Bowden had consistently denied the existence of a risk for collections.
Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister stated: “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 in order to protect our nation treasures.”
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 this year. This money was used to tackle some of the 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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