An article in The Observer (Sunday 7 February 2016) by Vanessa Thorpe starkly highlighted the plight faced by regional museums throughout Britain. The article presented a cold bleak future for local heritage, a sort of Orwellian image of a foot stamping on the face of culture, stating “funding cuts are forcing more institutions, all heavily invested with municipal pride, to either close for good or shut off some galleries, and to sell off prized collections or consign them to town hall cellars.” Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, summed up the predicament succinctly, “We clearly need to see greater resources made available for museums in the regions – the alternative is that some areas become cultural deserts.” The article reminded the reader that “44 local authority or trust-run museums, galleries and heritage sites are thought to have closed their doors since 2010” with some local authority museums seriously considering bringing back entrance fees and “11 per cent of regional museums still claiming to be thinking about selling items” despite the serious ramifications of this action.
Tenby Museum was quoted as a museum in Wales undergoing difficulties. Anyone who has recently seen a local newspaper in Pembrokeshire or caught the Welsh news will realise that Tenby Museum has made a plea to help safeguard its future. We are, to give it a boxing parlance, on the ropes but (and excuse me for coming over all Norman Mailer) the thing about being on the ropes as opposed to punched into a corner is that, if you fight hard enough, you can bounce back.
And that is what we are trying to do, indeed that is what the publicity was for – to make people aware of the predicament and to try and rectify it by asking for support. And support is the one thing that can really make a difference. Support can come in many ways – volunteering at the museum, buying our annual ticket and coming to see our displays and of course we will always welcome large commitments to meet capital project costs and core funding costs which are always at risk.
As an independent charity trust we have always had to ask for an admission fee (despite the change imposed by government a few years ago). The admission fee is our one main source of income. And this year we have had to put the admission fee up to £4.95. However, when you consider that this ticket allows the purchaser unlimited visits to the museum over a course of one whole year, then the cost of admission is not a great one. We have frequently changing exhibitions (the art shows change on average every six weeks, we are often making additions and alterations to existing displays and 2016 sees a major WWI exhibition at the museum – there is always something to see for visitors of all ages!)
The museum, as you will see from browsing the website, has a Story of Tenby Gallery which tells the story of the town form the 9th century to the present day; a maritime section; some tales of piracy; fabulous geology and archaeology; beautiful art with artists represented including Augustus and Gwen John, Nina Hamnett, David Jones, John Piper, John Knapp-Fisher, Gwilym Prichard, Kyffin Williams, Denis Curry, Grahame Hurd-Wood, Elizabeth Haines and EJ Head to name but a few. We hold various talks and events (2016 sees part two of In Reflection where the art portraits are brought to life and a creative event on the life and work of Dylan Thomas), plenty of interactive stuff for families and kids of all ages the week of 28 March seeing museum staff dressed as pirates and a pirate storytelling event on Sunday 3 April as part of the Great Weekend of Adventure), research opportunities including family history research and an active Friends group. Exhibitions planned for the future include a natural history display based around the collections and concentrating on ecology and the environment and a major show on Welsh cinema. We work closely with schools (there was a truly wonderful secondary schools show in January), house work experience placements from all over the county and encourage volunteers of all ages. We try our best to be relevant and to feed back into the community.
We are determined to be an oasis in the cultural desert. We are counting on your support and you can start by buying an admission ticket! We hope to see you all very soon and for many years to come. And if you have any ideas for things you would like us to do in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to hear from you.