Meetings of the Court of Governors - 28 April 2000

A meeting of the COURT OF GOVERNORS held on 28 April 2000 at the Welsh Slate Museum, Llanberis.

PRESENT:

Mr M C T Prichard (President in the Chair); Mr A Thomas (Vice President); Mr G Wyn Howells (Treasurer); Mr K Mascetti; Cllr J G Jenkins; Cllr R W Hughes; Dr R Bowen; Mr C Delaney; Mr G Humphries; Cllr P G Larsen; Capt. G Pari Huws; Miss F Lynch; Cllr A Earle; Mr J A Davies; Mr D C Jones Davies; Mrs E Pritchard Jones; Dr S J Davies; Dr P T Warren; Mr R G Thomas; the Hon. Jonathan Davies; Dr N Edwards; Mrs A Carey Evans; Sir R Hanbury-Tenison; Mr D Bowen Lewis; Mr D Ken Jones; Mr D Wigley MP AM; Mr J W Evans.

IN ATTENDANCE:

The Director NMGW; the Deputy Director, NMGW; the Director of Public Affairs; the Director, MWL; the Director, NMG; Project Leader, NWMS; the Head of Administration.

APOLOGIES:

Apologies for absence from the meeting were received from Mr J Jones; Mr H Jones; Mr C Grace; Mr P Loveluck; Sir D Mansel Lewis; Mr W Griffiths MP; Mrs S Crouch; Mrs J Raum; Mr T A Owen; Mr M McClaggan; Mr J Pembridge; Mr R Cass; Mr P M Thomas; Mr H Looker; Mr T G Jones; Cllr J Huish; Cllr A Harries; Cllr D Phillips; Ms L Quinn; Ms A Wellington; Mr B Jones MP.

WELCOME:

The President welcomed members to the meeting and was pleased that this meeting could once again be held in north Wales.

159 - MINUTES:

Resolved: That the minutes of the Court of Governors meeting held on 19 November 1999 be approved.

160 - FREE ENTRY (Ref. Min. 2(ii) this meeting 19 November 1999):

Reported: That free entry to all Museums had been granted to pre-organised school parties from 1 April 2000. NMGW had recently received an additional £600,000 grant-in-aid from the National Assembly, which now enabled it to allow free entry from 1 May 2000 for all children 18 years and under and also free entry to those 60 years of age and over. It was also hoped (subject to the VAT position being confirmed) to allow free entry to the unemployed (those in receipt of benefit). Such free entry was over and above that being offered by charging national museums in England and the President, through Mr Dafydd Wigley MP AM, thanked the National Assembly for enabling this.

161 - INDUSTRIAL MARITIME HISTORY OF CARDIFF (Ref. Min. 2 this meeting 19 November 1999):

Reported: That at the last meeting of the Court of Governors, Captain G Pari Huws expressed his continuing concern that there was now little or no record of the industrial maritime history of Cardiff itself and the role it had played (as the capital) in the development of Wales. The Director had spoken to Julie Morgan MP on the likelihood of establishing a museum of Cardiff who had maintained an ongoing interest in this concept and would contact the Director again when appropriate. In answer to Captain Pari Huws' question on NMGW's Council's intentions the President replied that it would be difficult to alter displays at NMG to incorporate this but it will be considered along with the other plans there. Councillor G J Jenkins requested that the Museum consider putting on a temporary exhibition on the subject at NMG.

Councillor A Earle (representing Cardiff Council) agreed that Cardiff should do something to record its industrial maritime history but could at this time hold out no hope of funding for this. He did feel however that a display could be considered in City Hall but that was dependent on any future use by the National Assembly of City Hall. Mr Dafydd Wigley MP wished to place on record that if there had been co-operation from Cardiff City Council then the National Assembly would already have been there. Dr Bowen also commented that he welcomed the enthusiasm from the representative of Cardiff Council, as this enthusiasm had not been forthcoming from the Council during his very long period associated with the Industrial and Maritime Museum in Cardiff.

162 - ANNUAL ACCOUNTS 1988/89 (Ref. Min. 3 this meeting 19 November 1999):

Reported: That the Director and Mr Colin Ford as ex-Director had on 17 February 2000 given evidence to the National Assembly's Audit Committee together with Mr Jon Shortridge and Mr Laurie Pavelin of the Welsh Office. The full report from that Hearing was expected in mid-May. The Director felt that the Committee had asked searching and fair questions and some valuable and important lessons had been learnt both by the Museum and the Assembly officials. The Vice President who attended the Hearing wished to congratulate the Director who he felt had been a credit to NMGW.

163 - DIRECTOR'S SIX MONTHLY REPORT TO THE COURT NOVEMBER 1999 TO APRIL 2000:

Received: A verbal report from the Director on the achievements of NMGW between November 1999 to April 2000.

Reported: That three strategic issues had dominated the work of NMGW over the past 6 months. The first was how to ensure that NMGW was relevant and accessible to contemporary society and its relevance and accessibility was widely perceived and understood. Examples given of recent developments to achieve this included the re-erecting of a medieval church containing a complete cycle of early 16th Century wall paintings, the re-erecting of a prefab from Gabalfa and the building of a 'House for the Future', all at the Museum of Welsh Life (MWL). At the National Museum and Gallery (NMG) a "hands on" discovery zone had been opened in the Glan Ely Gallery which gave the public the opportunity to handle specimens and artefacts.

In the April 2000 edition of the "Which? Guide To Tourist Attractions" three of NMGW's current seven Museums were inspected, two of which achieved very good ratings, with the third - NMG - being described as outstanding and one of the top ten Museums in the whole of the UK. The Director highlighted the fact that five of NMGW's seven Museums are exclusively Welsh, underlining NMGW's aim to tell the world about Wales whilst also retaining the ability to bring to Wales art, culture and knowledge from around the world, promoting an understanding of and respect for the diverse cultures of the world.

Increasing access, both actual and "virtual", was important. NMGW had invested in the installation of ICT infrastructure to support effective internal communication but to also have the ability to put catalogues and other collection databases onto the Internet. The existing NMGW website already enjoys up to 70,000 hits per month. Access was also improved through NMGW's industrial strategy phase one of which was the development of the Welsh Slate Museum; phase two is the integration of Big Pit, Blaenvon; and phase three is the new Industrial Maritime Museum in Swansea. A fourth phase involves a modest bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funds to re-develop the Museum of the Welsh Woollen Industry.

Whilst improving access NMGW must continue to ensure that it can properly look after the collections and estates entrusted into its' care. This was the second strategic issue and to that end the Collections Centre in Nantgarw could be developed to house, in the long term, the reserve collections, the archives and some conservation facilities for example. NMGW was at present developing the Archive Resource Centre within the existing building, with the next phase of work likely to cost £4m or £5m. Good stewardship starts and ends with storage and it was anticipated that a report to the annual Court of Governors meeting in October 2000 would concentrate on progress on issues of stewardship.

Finally, NMGW must improve its funding base in order to ensure sustained delivery and improved performance in activities concerning access and stewardship in particular. Both last year and this year NMGW had been successful in gaining an increase to its grant-in-aid and whilst this was an important method of improving the funding base NMGW was re-doubling its efforts to raise funds from other sources. A number of strategies were being actively pursued, such as the appointment of a European Fundraising Officer, the launching of a new membership scheme where patrons will have privileged access to NMGW in return for an annual subscription. The Director challenged the Court to not only become patrons themselves during the coming year but to assist in finding 500 new patrons by Christmas. NMGW is also examining priorities in public affairs and commercial activities to ensure that all efforts to generate additional income are profitable. Too often museums were successful in raising money, but did not count the cost of so doing.

In response to a question from Councillor Earle it was confirmed that the National Waterfront Museum Swansea (NWMS) was due to be opened in June 2004 and he was much reassured with this answer. Dafydd Wigley MP questioned whether there had been any slippage from planned opening and was it still to budget. The Director confirmed that a date had not been predicted until now and "ball-park" costs had not yet been finalised as it was planned to build up to a standard not down to a price. Mr Wigley expressed surprise that NMGW was embarking on such a project without an opening date or cost in mind. It was agreed that at the next Court of Governors meeting an outline business plan for NWMS would be presented.

In response to a question from Dr Susan Davies on additionality the Director confirmed that HLF rules on additionality were that they would not give grants to projects unless they were genuinely additional to the ongoing work of the institution. If they, in reality, jeopardised work currently being carried out then HLF would be concerned. Therefore Big Pit had always been seen by NMGW and HLF as an additional museum. The President in conclusion reminded Court that the Council of NMGW was determined not to be detracted from its core work of caring and preserving the collection held in its care.

164 - NMGW QUARTERLY REPORT JANUARY TO MARCH 2000:

Received: The NMGW Quarterly Report January to March 2000.

Resolved: That Court welcomed these reports and requested they be forwarded on a quarterly basis. In answer to a question on the difficulty of retaining staff and recruitment the Director responded that compared with other national museums NMGW was finding it difficult to compete especially in terms of remuneration. This was not only applicable to museum specialists but also in other specialised areas.

165 - FLATHOLM CELTIC CROSS:

A stone cross originally located on Flatholm Island in the Bristol Channel had been in the possession of the Museum since 1942 when work was being carried out by the War Office. Cardiff Council had bought Flatholm in 1995 and was running it as an outdoor activity centre where approximately 2,000 youngsters visited every year. Councillor Earle (chairman of the Flatholm Conservation Committee) wished the Cross to be returned to Flatholm to be seen by its visitors.

The Deputy Director, NMGW explained that the Cross had been donated to the Museum in 1942 and felt that it should remain at NMG as on Flatholm it would be prone to vandalism and it was portable enough that it could be stolen or destroyed.

Resolved: That NMGW's Council would consider this fully at its next meeting in July 2000.

166 - OWAIN GLYN DŴR 1400 - 2000:

Reported: That Dafydd Wigley questioned what plans NMGW had to celebrate the 600th Anniversary of the start of the uprising in 1400 by Owain Glyn Dwr. It was confirmed that the Museum had played a full part in enabling the National Library of Wales to mount its multi media exhibition, which would be on show from April to September 2000, and it was felt better to support than compete.

167 - DATE AND TIME OF NEXT MEETING:

Resolved: That the next meeting of the Court of Governors be held on 20 October 2000 in the Court Room, National Museum and Gallery.

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