Meetings of the Court of Governors - 20 October 2000

A meeting of the COURT OF GOVERNORS held on 20 October 2000 at the National Museum & Gallery, Cardiff.

- PRESENT:

Mathew Prichard (President); G Wyn Howells (Treasurer); Dr Roderic Bowen; Cllr R Cass; Cllr R Francis-Davis; Dr Susan J Davies; Dr Nancy Edwards; J Wynford Evans; Win Griffiths MP; Cllr RW Hughes; Capt Gwyn Pari-Huws; D Ken Jones; Eirlys P Jones; Huw Jones; J Gareth Jones; Cllr Dr J Geraint Jenkins; Cllr Patricia Larsen; Dafydd Bowen Lewis; Hefin Looker; Keith Mascetti; Murray McLaggan; Malcolm Parry; Linda Quinn; Joan Raum; Sir Richard Hanbury-Tenison; Mair Waldo Thomas; Roger G Thomas; Dr Peter Warren; A Wellington.

- IN ATTENDANCE:

Anna Southall, Director, NMGW; Eurwyn Wiliam, Deputy Director, NMGW; Penny Fell, Acting Director of Public Affairs; John Williams Davies, Director, MWL; Tony Lloyd, Head of Administration; Nick Srdic, Head of Finance and Audit and Neil Harrison, Administration Officer.

- APOLOGIES:

Apologies for absence from the meeting were received from Jonathan Jones; Sir David Mansel Lewis; Cllr John Pembridge; Rt. Hon. Barry Jones MP; Dr J A Davies; Annwen Carey Evans; G E Humphreys; Rt. Hon. Dafydd Wigley AM MP; Cllr Jonathan Huish; P M Thomas; Clive Grace; Cllr Harries; Frances Lynch; Cllr David Rogers and Paul Loveluck.

- WELCOME:

The President welcomed the members to the meeting.

- CONDOLENCES:

The Court held a moment's silence in memory of T A Owen, the Vice-President to the National Library and member of Court who had died during the summer.

1 - MINUTES:

Resolved: That the minutes of the Court of Governors meeting held on 28 April 2000 be approved.

2 - INDUSTRIAL MARITIME HISTORY OF CARDIFF: (Ref: Min 161, This meeting 28 April 2000)

Reported: That there had been no further discussion on the establishment of a Museum of Cardiff. The Director recognised the need for a local Cardiff museum and was keen, as was the Council of Museums in Wales, to work with Cardiff County Council to develop this, possibly as part of the Museum's new partnership programme.

3 - FLATHOLM CELTIC CROSS: (Ref: Min 165, This meeting 28 April 2000)

Reported: That no formal request had been received from the Flatholm Conservation Committee and therefore neither the Collections & Education Committee nor the Museum's Council had been given the opportunity of considering this matter further,

4 - ELECTION OF VICE-PRESIDENT:

Mr Roger G Thomas left the room during the consideration of this item.

Reported: That Mr Alun Thomas had, for professional reasons, resigned as Vice-President. The President wished to pay tribute to this long serving member of the Court of Governors who had played a valued role, both as Vice-President and Treasurer over many years. He had been a passionate advocate of the National Museum & Gallery of Wales' interests typified by his recent involvement in the Swansea Project. This was echoed by Cllr R Francis-Davies of Swansea, who wished to thank him on behalf of Swansea City and County Council.

Council was unanimous in recommending to Court the appointment of Roger G Thomas as Vice-President for the remainder of Alun Thomas' term of office (October 2002).

Resolved: Accordingly and that Mr Roger G Thomas be congratulated on his appointment.

5 - MEMBERSHIP:

Reported: That Council had unanimously recommended at its meeting that morning the appointment of Dr Eleri Wyn Lewis, Dr Brian Willott and Mr Colin Rowland to the Court and Dr Eleri Wyn Lewis and Dr Brian Willott from Court to Council, their appointments to commence on 1 April 2001

The President, in discussion with Council, thought it appropriate that to ensure wider participation in nominations for future vacancies on Court and Council a nominations committee be established consisting of two of the Museum's Officers, one other member of Council, a member of the Court of Governors not on Council and the Director.

Resolved: Accordingly and that the appointments should be made.

6 - ROYAL CHARTER:

Received: A proposed Special Resolution for the amendment of the Charter and Statutes.

Resolved: That:

  • In Article 8 (4) add "Copies of the statements of account shall also be sent to the Auditor General for Wales who shall examine, certify and report on them, and shall lay copies of the statements and of the report before the National Assembly for Wales".

  • In Statute IV 1.(2) for "the Secretary of State for Wales" substitute "the National Assembly for Wales".

  • Add new Statute IV 1.(24) "up to six persons appointed by and from Members of the National Assembly for Wales".

  • In Statute V 1.(5) for "the Secretary of State for Wales" substitute "the National Assembly for Wales".

  • In Statute V 2.(2) for "the Secretary of State" substitute "the National Assembly for Wales".

Subject to such amendments as the Privy Council may require.

7 - REPORT OF COUNCIL:

Received and Approved: 92nd Annual Report and Accounts for the period 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000

Reported: That the President viewed the new millennium as creating new opportunities and new challenges for the Museum, both in terms of the ever changing Museum environment and of the political structure within Wales itself. He commended the report to Court.

The Treasurer presented the Annual Accounts. Expenditure for the year ending 31 March 2000 exceeded income by £147k. Income for the period had fallen by £500k in relation to the previous year in part due to declining sponsorship but also changes to the admission policy. Expenditure for the same period had fallen by £1.4 million due to high levels of expenditure at the Welsh Slate Museum and specific exhibitions in the preceding year. The apparent fall in fundraising reflected a change in accounting practice by the National Audit Office. Overall Funds showed an increase of £1.1 million, reflecting the re-evaluation of fixed assets as part of the indexation policy. There had been a combined gain of £179k on the disposal of fixed assets mainly from the sale of 126 Bute Street.

The Debt owed figure stood at £4.2 million reflecting the balance of the sale of WIMM, still held by the National Assembly. Interest on this was retained by the Treasury, as was normal practice. The Auditor General for Wales had stated that in his opinion the financial statements gave a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the Museum and had been properly prepared: further, all expenditure and income had been applied to the purposes intended by the National Assembly. The Auditor General for Wales had no observations to make on these financial statements. The Treasurer commended the accounts to Court.

8 - DIRECTOR'S REPORT:

Reported: That the Director updated Court on progress on NMGW's Industrial Strategy: she went on to outline early plans for other future developments.

i) Welsh Slate Museum

This development continued to be a significant success. During the first six months of this year visitor numbers were 15.5% up on last year. This Museum had reached the final three in the Wales Tourist Board awards, the result of which would be announced on 8 December. It was the only museum (rather than a visitor attraction) to reach the final and the Director was very proud of this achievement; it was an appropriate testament to the vision, commitment and hard work of all the staff at Llanberis.

ii) Big Pit

The draft budgets had been announced yesterday. The Assembly had transferred £300k from NMGW's Specimen Purchase Fund into its Revenue Fund to enable NMGW to integrate Big Pit into its operations. Whilst this was good news for Big Pit and the Industrial Strategy, NMGW's Council had that morning expressed grave concerns about the cut in the Purchase Fund from 1.3 to 1.0 million. However, the sustained survival of Big Pit still depended on the Assembly's decision on the level of increase in revenue funding that it was willing to offer to NMGW.

iii) Museum of Welsh Woollen Industry

HLF had agreed in principle to a grant of £930,000 towards the total development costs of £1.6 million. Work was now in hand to prepare the full Phase 2 application for submission in January 2001; it was hoped to hear from HLF in June/July 2001 and start work for completion and re-opening in May/June 2002.

iv) National Waterfront Museum, Swansea

A proposal had been submitted to HLF on 30 June. Provided HLF were satisfied that the future of Big Pit had been secured and that sufficient progress had been made on its development, then the Swansea project would be appraised on its own merits and NMGW should receive a response from HLF in January. If that response was positive, the National Waterfront Museum Swansea development would also enter Phase 2. Preparing the full application would, it was believed, take six months.

A full briefing paper on this project was distributed to members on arrival; any suggestions, comments or questions should be forwarded to Tony Lloyd who would ensure that they reached the appropriate quarter and received a reply. It was emphasised that contributions would be welcomed at an early stage; wider public consultation would follow.

Planning for the Future

Whilst the development and implementation of the Industrial Strategy had been a priority for some time, the future of the two main sites in Cardiff - the National Museum & Gallery and the Museum of Welsh Life had now to be considered.

Both museums faced similar challenges: how to display and interpret NMGW's collections in the 21st Century and how to meet and exceed the expectations of today's and tomorrow's audiences. This was being tackled on two fronts:

  • examining the location and quality of space at present available; where the existing buildings were probably capable of development and expansion to accommodate the Museum's needs over the coming 50 years?

  • examining the nature of current displays and researching new techniques of display and other methods by which access may be offered in the future

This year a significant number of stakeholders would be invited to discussions and debates at NMG, focusing on the needs and identity of the National Gallery collections and the related or consequent needs of the National Museum collections which were housed in NMG. Court would be kept informed.

Fundamental to both developments were the resources and facilities required to improve the stewardship of its collections. Using parallels in dentistry and healthcare the director described preventive conservation, a far more cost-effective approach to stewardship than treatment or restoration.

Most museum artefacts were subject to decay unless they were properly looked after. They required safe and secure housing in an appropriate environment. They required documentation (of their location and condition, as well as the basic data on research findings) in order that they could be checked regularly. Should intervention become necessary, if the condition of the object was being monitored, then the optimum moment for intervention could be chosen. All of this applies to all of the Museum's collections, whether they were on display in NMGW or on loan, being researched in a laboratory or in a museum store.

None of this needed to entirely exclude public access, and especially not in the digital age, the age of information and communication technology. Equally, it must be appreciated that without this approach to stewardship there would be no public access in the future. Quite simply, if we did not care for the collections now they would not survive in a meaningful form, and it would be literally impossible to envisage a museum without collections.

When the Welsh Industrial Maritime Museum was sold, some money was invested in a new building at Parc Nantgarw. This was the temporary home of the Industrial collections, and of the staff involved in their curation and care. However, the building and the land adjoining was bought in order to develop it into a Collections Centre, a centre where collections could be appropriately housed, and where elements of our research and conservation/restoration work might also be conducted. Such a centre could also house the Museum's archive and act as a library 'stack' for example. It might also be the nerve centre of virtual access to the Museums themselves, their collections and associated activities. Actual access to the collections would also be considerably easier physically, as well as more interesting and informative.

The development of a Collections Centre at Parc Nantgarw would not only in itself improve stewardship and public access but overall development of this facility was also the crucial foundation for all of our plans to improve the quantity and quality of space available for public access within NMG and MWL.

Building a funding strategy was therefore one of the next issues to be addressed in any 'masterplan' for NMGW. HLF had been approached informally and their view was that while excellence in stewardship was essential to the very purpose of national museum, it was not the place of the lottery to replace public funding, but to add to it. The Director suggested that Court might support the Museum in two ways: firstly in persuading the Assembly to make an extra capital grant of, for example, £1 million a year for two years, and to increase NMGW's revenue grant in order to staff and run this facility; and secondly in helping to increase the private support of the National Museums through the Patrons Scheme. The number of patrons has increased by some 33% since the last meeting of Court, however, we are a long way short of the hoped-for figure of 500.

The Assembly is increasing pressure on NMGW to raise money from the private sector. Court's assistance in persuading the Assembly of the importance of the Collections Centre, and in helping to increase NMGW's funds from private sources could be vital.

Cllr Pat Larsen expressed concern on the use of the Welsh language at Swansea Maritime & Industrial Museum and thus in the Swansea development; the Director confirmed that all aspects of the National Museums & Galleries of Wales should be fully bilingual and that this would apply equally to the proposed National Waterfront Museum of Swansea.

Linda Quinn enquired whether the Museum was taking advantage of the New Opportunities Fund. The Deputy Director noted that NMGW was currently involved in a partnership led by the National Library on a pan-Wales basis in presenting a major bid for the digitisation of archives to make them more accessible to the public. The bid had already passed Stage I. In addition, further partnership work with both Gwynedd and Cardiff Councils' were proceeding, also making use of the Fund.

The President wished to take the opportunity to thank the Director and her staff for their work throughout the year. He added that the National Assembly had today made an announcement regarding the Museum's budget. Council at its meeting this morning had been surprised to see the budget proposals reported by the Western Mail prior to its quarterly meeting. The budgets showed a headline increase of £850,000 in revenue funding for NMGW. However, the existing funding for free entry for the unemployed and over 60's accounted for £200,000 of this with the remainder made up of backlog inflation and funding for Quids-In (£1 entry for paying visitors). Revenue funding of £300,000 for Big Pit was also included in this figure but at the expense of a corresponding decrease in the Specimen Purchase Grant (SPG). Whilst welcoming the important step that NMGW could now take towards the integration of Big Pit, Council had been very concerned at the cost of a cut in SPG and regretted not having the opportunity to discuss with the Assembly how extra allocations could be more effectively utilised.

Win Griffiths, MP enquired whether, as part of the drive to increase access to the Museum's collections, what alternatives and options were being considered. The Director noted in reply that the Museum's history of lending its collections was unparalleled by any other national museum and even so the Museum was hoping to be more pro-active in this area than previously. The Deputy Director added that every local museum, National Trust house or similar heritage site in Wales had had or had at this moment objects from the National Museum's collection. Indeed the Museum would wish to lend even more items where possible but only of course if the venue was suitable. It was also the case that the Museum had almost reached its maximum for loans in terms of the administrative burden placed on the Museum.

Susan Davis wished to congratulate the Museum on the quality of the visitor research work which had been carried out and to highlight that this would be the basis upon which the Museum would wish to discuss more fully how the resources allocated to Quids-In could be most effectively used.

Court were also informed that the Museum would be undergoing its Quinquennial Review which had been brought forward to the end of this financial year. The first part of this review would be carried out by an external group but it was noted that both the Director and Deputy Director had been invited to be members of the steering group and it was intended to make full use of the review to benefit the Museum.

Mair Waldo Thomas noted that this was her first meeting of Governors, representing the University of Wales and she hoped that in order to help such members as herself, the minutes would identify members of staff by name so as to help in identification.

Mrs Joan Raum welcomed the inclusion in the Court papers of the quarterly reviews by NMGW departments, which was both informative and useful.

9 - RETIREMENTS:

Reported: That the President wished to note that six members would be leaving Court, two of whom were present at the meeting itself. He wished to record his gratitude for their valued contribution and to wish them well in the future. In particular, Roderic Bowen had been a member of Court since 1945 and had served the Museum in many capacities. To mark his retirement he was presented with a gift as a token of their gratitude and affection.

In reply, Dr Bowen noted that in his time he had seen many Presidents and Directors come and go and he wished to thank them all - in particular the present holders of these posts and thanked them for their kindness and toleration. He also wished to single out Tony Lloyd for his particular attention and help.

10 - DATE OF NEXT MEETING:

Resolved: That next meeting of the Court be held on 27 April 2001 in north Wales.

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