Leaky Roof Causes Serious Concern for Welsh National Museum Amid Pleas for Urgent Repairs

Artworks had to be removed from walls during heavy rainfall, with water collected in buckets.

Welsh National Museum, Cardiff (1989). Photo By RDImages / Epics / Getty Images.

On December 6, the National Museum Cardiff’s Chief Executive spoke to the Senedd Cymru (Welsh parliament), revealing that buckets are being used to catch rainwater leaking through the roof. Jane Richardson explained that across the seven sites that comprise Amgueddfa Cymru (the Museum Wales group, which she is in charge of) there is a backlog of repairs to be made, calculated at £90 million ($113.1 million), and that £25 million ($31.4 million) will be required to undertake the “most critical urgent works” at the Welsh capital’s flagship institution.

The neoclassical building was first opened to the public in 1922 and the roof is made up of 50 different structures, making waterproofing difficult without a large budget. Richardson said “when we are expecting a storm or heavy rain, we have to put staff on standby, literally, so they can come into the building in the middle of the night to take paintings off the walls.”

Artworks kept in the museum‘s collection include paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, Thomas Gainsborough, and the Welsh artists Augustus and Gwen John.

Richardson emphasized that the safety of the works on the museum walls are never compromised, saying “they know exactly what to do and they do it regularly”, but also that a lack of adequate storage in the building means that parts of the collection are “being kept in conditions that are not appropriate”.

Amgueddfa Cymru is receiving more than £4.7 million ($5.9 million) this year from the government, but Richardson explained that she is already modelling for a 10% cut. She said that not only is the future of the building “of great concern”, but that in the face of further budget cuts the institution as a whole “will struggle to function”. Despite visitor numbers having pretty well recovered to pre-pandemic levels, Richardson said that income streams like corporate filming and hires had “all but disappeared” and that the museum could have to resort to shorter opening hours and scrapping some of their educational and entertainment programmes.

Following the Senedd meeting, Heledd Fychan, the Plaid Cymru shadow minister, accused the deputy minister Dawn Bowden of ignoring the mounting risk to “national treasures” and called for Bowden to bring an “urgent statement” to explain how the Welsh government will help to protect the objects in these institutions. Tom Giffard, the Conservative shadow minister, echoed these sentiments, saying that “Dawn Bowden’s frequent inaction has been to the significant detriment of the Welsh culture, tourism and sport sectors”. A Welsh government spokesperson responded, saying that “whilst we are aware of the longer-term maintenance issues, the museum has assured us that the collections are currently safe.”

 

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