Author Topic: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery  (Read 6008 times)

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Offline Drone

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Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« on: October 19, 2010, 07:07:10 PM »
Quote
Review of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery with a view to finding alternative ways of displaying the collection

To include an outreach and education programme. Saving £80,000

Swindon Art Gallery is located in Swindon, Wiltshire, England. It includes a collection of 20th-century British art, one of the best in the country outside London. The collection was established in 1944 by a local benefactor, H.J.P. Bomford, through a significant donation of artworks.

Artists in the collection include Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, L S Lowry, Paul Nash, Steven Pippin, Terry Frost, Howard Hodgkin, Gwen John, Augustus John, Maggi Hambling, Ivon Hitchens, Christopher le Brun, Lisa Milroy, David Leach, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. The media include paintings, photography and studio pottery.

The museum contains very important collections of archaeology, geology, social history, photographs and documents.

As of two weeks ago, the museum and art gallery is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. From April, the museum and gallery are likely to be closed permanently with no idea if or when we will ever get the new gallery or museum mentioned in Promise 27.

The jusitification for the closure is that so much of the collection is in store and it lacks access to the upper floors for those in wheelchairs.

For the past five years, the museum and gallery  has operated with a tiny, decreasing budget, very few staff and zero political support. it now faces closure.

What do TS-ers think?


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Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2010, 07:29:44 PM »
Don't forget Dr Morrison of the Naked Ape and Watching People he has a painting or two in there! I think that the arts have been and are neglected in Swindon. It has started from a very low base when compared to collections in other similar industrialised towns. Swindon had one industry and the GWR was not really into being an art benefactor.

Will it remain closed? Almost certainly likely, I have been there more than a few times, but how many other TSrs have? Or Councillors for that matter? I think that it has suffered from its location and being a cultural "Cinderella". I think that a town with the aspirations of Swindon, should have more museums and galleries.
All posts on this forum are my own opinion and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Drone

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 06:39:53 AM »
It's an amazing art collection and the museum contains some fascinating objects from the history of the town.


Cutting £80,000 from the budget means losing all staff and volunteers and spending nothing on ensuring the paintings are kept safe and looked after until they are ready to be displayed again. There is no plan or timetable for when a new gallery might be set up - I'd encourage everyone to go along while they still can!



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Offline Muggins

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2010, 09:05:35 AM »
During those consultations on what we'd like to see in our town centre, many said a proper concert hall, a proper art gallery, library etc and there was an embroyonic plan to put them all in one new purpose built building and to face that building with the portico from the Baptist Tabernacle, somwhere up by Regent's Circus.  Good it was! 

Steve is right, in as much as although the Arts are not neglected by the people of Swindon, maybe they have been by the council.  Having said that the council have ignored the things that could give it the kudos it craves - too busy going the business interest route, it's been said here before 'knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing'. 

Having had a VERY successful Big Arts day at comparatively very little cost, they claimed it as the biggy at ther recent SSP COnference.
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Offline poemogram

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2010, 09:39:28 AM »
obviously part of the re-furbished mechanics could house swindon's museum and gallery - probably most of it as well as a cafe where a one pound cup of tea is possible...

see wot i did there..

to commemorate the urban myth that SBC might once have bought it for a pound..

such a massive disgrace that none of our world famous and world class homegrown -self-grown GWR artist - Ken White - is bought by and displayed by our Council..disgrace I feel

museum in that historical tourist attraction quarter around mechanics and railway village would be fitting..

...with several income -generating non-exploitative activities and baubles to boot

so there we have the mechanics answer...now simply add a touch of reality, real-politique..

or shall we just go for broke...put away negative thoughts and personalisation and politicalisation of the issue ..and go for it

why not throw in Richard jefferies Museum serious re-vamp and of course nip in our very own Hammerman poet , Alfred Williams (who wrote the iconic tome "life in a railway town" a must read for all swindonains available at the town's seemingly decreasing but lets not let it Library service..

elevenses and muesli time for me now..chow

Offline Jean

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2010, 10:14:16 AM »
I echo what everyone else has said about the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery - - any other Council would have been singing the praises of this valuable resource and promoting it like mad rather than reducing the work-force year by year. I happened to visit at the end of the school summer holidays and it was buzzing with visitors. Reducing the open days will lead to inevitable closure unless some savior comes along - another Mike Pringle, for example.

All support for the Richard Jefferies Museum was withdrawn by the Council 20 years ago. Volunteers from the Richard Jefferies Society have kept it open to the public and 90% of the exhibits belong to the charity. I personally dig deep into my pockets and work hard to make it attractive to visitors. Mike Pringle, the director of the Swindon Cultural Partnership (now part of Forward Swindon) got involved with this museum nearly 2 years ago and is doing a great job in progressing the setting up of a development trust to keep the place going. He isn't a pen-pusher, he has been out there fixing gates, putting up fencing and laying paths in his own time. He organised a cream-tea event in the garden on National Heritage Day (September 12). We had over 180 visitors in the Museum and about another 100 who stayed in the garden. It shows what can be done on limited resources - Mike got planning permission to put up some A-boards at Coate Water to let them know what was going on at the Museum. Most people who visit Coate Water don't know that the Museum is there. Advertising works!!

It doesn't help that the Information Centre in the town centre displays no information about Swindon Museum and Art Gallery or the Richard Jefferies Museum. All we hear about is STEAM. If you ask at the information desk, they disappear and find a leaflet! If you don't know these museums exist in the first place, how are you going to find out!!!

The Council gets hot under the collar when Swindon is treated like a joke by the rest of the country - it is not a cultural desert; it is rich in cultural resources that have been neglected by Swindon Council for decades. Shame on them.   

If you have never visited SMAG or the RJM, you are in for a real treat.

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Offline Drone

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2010, 05:05:25 PM »
That's good to hear about the progress being made at RJM. It's a lovely museum and fascinating collection.

I would like to promote all Swindon's museums: STEAM, the museum and art gallery, Richard Jefferies and Lydiard House. Everything from modern art, to a stately home, to a historic birth place to the wonders of GWR. STEAM may have a few more leaflets at the Information Centre, but all the museums need a little more love and promotion. They do well on limited resources but we should be proud of just how good they are and just how much they achieve!
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Offline Steve Wakefield

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2010, 06:42:13 PM »
Museums are not just a collection of artifacts or a place to store something people belive deem is historical. Steam is a conference venue and for instance has a lego event and model railway event all bring in droves with the exhibits as a backdrop numbers are up.

For example Drone who ran the bars at the Big Arts Day and how much of that money went to Lydiard? How much does the conference centre pay to Lydiard? I am sure Cllr Keith Williams will be able to tell us that one.  The comment of they al need a little love and promotion is fine. However they need to take advantage of people who want to spend their money. If Steam can turn in money from its conference facilities why can't Lydiard do the same? or does it?

Years ago I would visit my local museum as apart from the reference library that kept encyclopedias under lock and key I could view lots of artifacts as I could not touch them as they were behind glass. I could not photograph them so I would go downstairs  to the Reference Library and then get a pedia out and trace the drawing or the outline of  the photo contained within it.

Today I can wiz onto the net, or you tube or images etc I do not need to visit a museum and look at something behinad glass. Sad but true. Today we want to touch it, feel it, sense it, as that is how we learn best, like Victorian sideshows at the fair that have faded away into history. I beleiev museums will follow that route unless we give them more than a little love people want an experience now I believe. I am sure there are teachers out there that will tell you they take children to museums and attractions that excite the senses.

Big Pit in Wales is an example of that as well as STEAM exhibits behind glass are mixed with sensory experiences. My Grand daughter found the scrap heap at Big Pit very interesting and took many photographs of it and aspects of the museum etc that were different.
All posts on this forum are my own opinion and do not represent the views of any council or any political party.  :banana:

Offline Drone

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2010, 06:51:19 PM »
As I understand it, Big Arts Day cost approx £50,000 and so Lydiard Park wouldn't have made anything. Their budgets probably went on the litter picking afterwards.

The conferencing at STEAM is done by the council. The conferencing at Lydiard is a private company. Not sure how much it makes, but I think the money goes straight to the council's coffers. It doesn't subsidise the park or museum.

As for STEAM - excellent business model. The LEGO fair made almost £50,000 for the council and the visitor numbers are through the roof. Not sure why the other museums aren't run by the same person, who seems to know what they are doing.

Agreed about museums being more hands-on. Bristol is building a big museum that Swindon could elarn a lot from. It's going to be the museum of the people of the city - their stories, objects, memories, etc.
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Offline the gorgon

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2014, 11:39:44 AM »
More talk about moving the gallery and museum to Princes Street  http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/11501094.Please_get_behind_our_art_gallery_bid/

They are having an online survey about the idea, worth responding to, even if they don't pay much attention you'll have had your say
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SMAG_relocation_project


Offline Tobes

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2014, 12:06:21 PM »
Its interesting to note the groundswell of opinion 'on the street' which sees the vast majority of people feeling that the gallery ought (for moral reasons, if nothing else) to be housed in one of our many empty heritage buildings, rather than the council splurging yet more cash on some modern building.

its also an interesting focus on the councils unending obsession with a very limited part of the town centre.

Personally I'd like to see the gallery move with a firm caveat that the space created is used to expand the museum rather than move that too. I'd also like to see the gallery open in the old Technical College (which I'm sure Ashfield would see as a convenient get-out-of-jail ticket, as it sems pretty clear they have no intention of doing anything with the building for years to come). Failing that, I'd like to see it in the Old Town Hall/Locarno.

Pigs might fly of course.

All those buildings will be left to rot - but the council will get all excited by another concrete, steel and plate glass bit of almost instantly obsolete neo-modernist architecture down on Princes Street.

Plus ca change.
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Online Spunkymonkey

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2014, 01:21:40 PM »
Its interesting to note the groundswell of opinion 'on the street' which sees the vast majority of people feeling that the gallery ought (for moral reasons, if nothing else) to be housed in one of our many empty heritage buildings, rather than the council splurging yet more cash on some modern building.

What about the old railway museum on the junction between Farringdon Road and Farnsby Street? It was converted into a yoof centre at the cost of £1 million, but I am not sure if it is still fully utilised since Connexions disappeared.

Even if it is still used, why not put the museum back in the heritage building and put the yoof in the shiny new modern steel and glass structure.

Otherwise, I agree that the Locarno would be a good option. Old Town has a more cultural feel to it compared with Chav Central. A Café and Cultural quarter would suit Old Town.

Offline the gorgon

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2014, 01:47:24 PM »
I can see the point of perhaps having the modern art collection in a modern building, but that's it. 

I've said it before SBC missed a trick when they converted the old railway museum to a youth centre.  It might even have helped make redevelopment of the MI more economically viable (the MI was in better condition in 2000 when the old railway museum closed and the economy was doing a lot better).

Offline Phil Chitty

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2014, 03:17:18 PM »
If as Cllr Renard says there is £10 million of lottery funding and £5 million from the Council, why not the Mechanics and solve two problems with one go.

Offline the gorgon

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2014, 05:38:13 PM »
If as Cllr Renard says there is £10 million of lottery funding and £5 million from the Council, why not the Mechanics and solve two problems with one go.

The Lottery seem to be a lot more careful about business plans for anything they fund than they were 20 years ago (especially after numerous failed museums around the country), so the money isn't guaranteed as SBC might think it is.

I suspect the MI could be a money pit to fix, it'll probably cost around £10million just to do all the work required to fix the damage of the past 25 years (work was needed back in the 80's from memory to fix structural problems).  Then several million on top of that to convert it within the restrictions imposed by Grade II* listing.

A better use might be to spend it on the Locarno as they at least seem to have some sort of workable re-development plan and £5/10million might help get the ball rolling with private investors footing the rest of the bill.  Ironically because the Locarno is a shell it's possibly far easier/less costly to adapt than the MI.

Online Spunkymonkey

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2014, 08:59:59 PM »
Ironically because the Locarno is a shell it's possibly far easier/less costly to adapt than the MI.

Probably true depending on how the planners view things. In Manchester, a lot of the old facades have been retained and the building behind replaced with steel frames. If they allowed that at the Locarno, you would get a modern building in accordance with building regulations, DDA compliance etc, but with a historic façade.

Offline Tobes

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2014, 11:18:41 PM »
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I can see the point of perhaps having the modern art collection in a modern building, but that's it. 

'Modern Art' has the following definition: Modern art includes artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era.

Ergo, a building made in that period would be perfect.

The Mechanics was built in 1855 and enlarged from 1892... Seems to fit the bill as a suitable building for Modern Art far more than some ersatz building chucked up on the cheap by a developer with a penchant for buzz-phrases and hungry for a profit margin.

What about the large now empty school adjacent to Euclid, right under the councils own snout?

Quote
Euclid Street School

Euclid Street School Euclid Street School (photo 178,801 bytes) was built in 1897, and faces the Civic Offices. It fills the gap between two side streets, each of which provides rear access to the site. When it opened it was a day training centre for pupil teachers employed in the town, but in 1904 it became a Higher Elementary school, taking children aged at from 10 to 12 at entry and keeping them for 1-3 years. In 1907 this changed again in 1907 when the age at entry was standardised at 12 and the course was for three years. In 1919 its character changed again when it became a secondary school teaching the same subjects and to the same level as The College. These two amalgamated in 1943 as Headlands Secondary (later Grammar) School, which I attended at this site from 1947 to 1949 and again from 1951 to 1952, when the school moved to a new building at Cricklade Road/Headlands Grove.

In 1952 this building was used to relieve overcrowding in other schools, and in 1964 it reverted to its original use for training teachers, this time mature students wanting to transfer to teaching from other careers.

This is the same building our great and good civic leaders told us several years ago 'would have a use found for it'...

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Offline the gorgon

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2014, 08:41:47 AM »
To honest I should really be using the term 20th Century art http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swindon_Art_Gallery

One other location has sprung to mind: the disused railway workshops on London Street, last time I was down there they were all boarded up and the outlet village has shown how victorian industrial architecture can work well together with the modern.

Offline Muggins

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2014, 09:29:54 AM »
Drone Quote:  "From April, the museum and gallery are likely to be closed permanently with no idea if or when we will ever get the new gallery or museum mentioned in Promise 27."

Ah, the promises....No 27 aye, what's happened to the ones before that  i.e.1 -26?  I seem to remember in several of those consultation things I used to attend that this was talked about often - probably along with a concert hall, the most wanted thing in Swindon.

I also remember some sort of picture plan for how the town centre might look and the Gallery and Museum were to be placed a the top of town (Cultural Quarter) and it was even said that, although the dream was that it was to be a new modern purpose built place (because it was widely agreed that Swindon did indeed have a very worthy collection of art etc, that  ought to be on display)  the frontage of the new building would/could be those Tabernacle Portico stones. Seemed like a good use for them and as I doubt they were made on machine, they could also be classed as works of 'art' or at least artisan.

The reason to put it at the top of town? - to bring in visitors, to lift it out of its 'chavness'.   

Just been scanning some of the booklets and plans made about this time:- "it was useful to remember that the document A shared Vision for Swindon 2008 - 2030 had been produced" (they say) "with help from nearly a thousand people, the following list gives a flavour of how views have been gathered."

Workshops at the Swindon Strategic Partnership Conference.
Eight one off task groups involving over 60 people.
17 Road shows attended by hundreds of local people.
By sending in views about the draft Vision by  post and online.
By agreeing to be interviewed on camera by a team of roving reports.
Questionnaires about the quality of life in Swindon completed by hundreds of local people.
Consultation events for the Swindon Core Strategy.

Now that gives their plans a pretty good pedigree - except it annoyed me that the SSP conference always had more Borough officers and councillor present than any other set of people. and I checked this by asking for the 'present' or invitation lists after the event.  They haven't mentioned but they also had that Swindon Voice, a phone list of about 1000 with whom they consulted, but no one ever knew who were the 1000.
Could have been all SBC officers!!

I can't for the life of me remember who, apart from officers represented the views of the art world in Swindon, although there was a Swindon Cultural partnership at the time.   If I remember rightly, Martha Parry fought hard to have them recognised too. 

I also remember banging my head in frustration after each and every session/conference/meeting - I wasn't therefore, at them all. 

These 6/7 year old booklets/strategies are very interesting, you'd think they were written in the dark ages though.  And it is to be remembered that a big part of the town centres plans at the time were about accommodating the banal canal.

I've only just noticed that in the document Swindon Central Area Action Plan (giving Swindon back its heart) very colourful it is too, that along with the agreed green plans, they have also written down the 'discarded alternative options'.  A strange thing to do in such a shiny document.  Do you think 'they' realised that some of it was just what it says - a vision/dream, but that most of it was unachievable?

And there on the frontispiece of the Share Vision for Swindon,2008 - 2030 is a artist impression of---- the Baptist Tabernacle portico. Rebuilt!



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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Closing Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2014, 11:45:30 AM »

Where has Swindon Borough Council found £5,000,000 to spend on a new art gallery?

I don't have any problem with displaying OUR art in a decent gallery - I'd really like to see it - but SBC has/is giving away our leisure facilities to save save a *claimed* £1.x million per year subsidy to them, but intends to spend at least £5,000,000 on an art gallery which, if my understanding of the numbers is correct, won't see as many visitors each year as the paying visitors to our leisure venues.

If they're going to spend that money, at least spend it on one of our existing stock of heritage buildings.  I like the notion of using  the old railway museum - if it's big enough.

We don't need another concrete and glass box.