David Anderson's Blog
A great week
This week has been fantastic. On Tuesday, we held the official opening of the Dazu rock carvings exhibition and I am delighted by how it has all come together. They truly are magical, and we feel honoured to be the first ever Museum to host them outside of China. A real coup for us and for Wales! The media coverage has reflected their importance, and it has been wonderful to see so many people visiting the exhibition. In a happy coincidence, I was lucky enough to visit Dazu a few years ago and saw the carvings in situ. It truly was a breathtaking site, and I'm glad we're able to give the people of Wales a glimpse of them during the course of the exhibition.
Apart from the exhibition, I have also been busy meeting with various partners such as the Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales. Although we already work closely together, I believe that the relationship could be strengthened and I have discussed with their President the potential for greater cooperation in the future. It is important that we support one another as a sector, to ensure a thriving museum sector in Wales.
I also spoke at a conference at National Museum Cardiff, Interpret Wales, and visited Wakefield in my role as one of the Trustees of the National Coal Mining Museum which is based there. I was glad to be able to be out and about this week, after being left frustrated last week as I had to take three days from work after I injured my knee. Though I can walk now, it is still painful and will require some heavy duty physiotherapy to strenghten the muscles. But such is life!
It has been a bit of a whilrwind since I took up post but I am enjoying it. The staff have been extremely welcoming, and I'm excitied about our future plans, particularly the St Fagans redevelopment. There's never a dull moment and I'm delighted to be a part of such a vibrant organisation.
Snow and Scotland
Last weekend, my wife Josie along with my daughter Isobel and son Desmond came to visit me in Cardiff. We are still looking for a permanent base here for the family so I wanted to take the opportunity to showcase Cardiff to them. On Saturday afternoon, we went to St Fagans. We came across some very hardworking staff who had spent 4 or 5 hours clearing snow from the site so it would be safe for visitors on the Sunday. The site was deemed too dangerous for visitors that so we were restricted to the galleries, but everyone was still impressed. There’s plenty to see in Oriel 1 and it was also a great opportunity for me to see what happens to the site when it does snow!
On Monday, I then went up to Scotland for a number of meetings. Edinburgh looked romantically bleak in the snow, and wasn’t the easiest place to navigate around because of the weather. I had been due to meet Gordon Rintoul the Director of National Museums Scotland, but he was unfortunately ill with the flu. However, I did still manage to have a number of productive meetings with other staff members looking at issues around education, public engagement and the organisation of collections, as well as the threat to the operation of the portable antiquities with the Westminster Government’s proposed cuts to the scheme. I truly hope that discussions will ensure that we can save the operation of this scheme as it is of a huge importance.
I also met with John Leighton, Director General of National Galleries of Scotland. He explained how at the Dean Gallery they have been experimenting with new interpretations through temporary exhibitions. They have been able to rely far less on overseas loans whilst still attracting a broad audience.
From my visit, my overall impression was a positive one that would suggest greater collaboration in the future between ourselves and the National Museums in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I think I will have to check the weather forecasts before my next visit though. My plane back was stranded and I instead travelled back by train. But, despite the weather, it certainly was a worthwhile and interesting visit.
I began my role here at Amgueddfa Cymru just over two weeks ago and it's been a busy start as I've set about meeting staff across all of our sites, as well as attending the National Waterfront Museum's fifth birthday celebrations. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to lead such a highly regarded institution.
I've joined Amgueddfa Cymru at an exciting period. Developments are underway to create a National History Museum at St Fagans and the conversion of the first floor of National Museum Cardiff to become the National Museum of Art for Wales is due to be completed in July 2011. Over the coming months, I will give my full support to these projects as well as affirming Amgueddfa Cymru as a contemporary resource for Wales. The National Museums are here to serve the people of Wales and developing cultural partnerships is a way of delivering this vision successfully. This approach is of even greater importance in light of the country's current financial situation.
Last week, we launched the document Inspiring Wales at the Senedd. Learning is at the heart of Amgueddfa Cymru and this paper is a celebration of this work and our vision to become a world-class museum of learning. The booklet shows how, as well as having an important role to play as guardians of the nation's collections, equally important is our work in interpreting and communicating the collections to the people of Wales and its visitors.
Amgueddfa Cymru is unique among national museums in the British Isles in its spread of sites and their close connection with the communities and regions of which they are a part. No national museum in London can come near it in this.
Its collections are also exceptionally diverse in their range of disciplines – from social history to art, from natural sciences to industrial history. This enables the museum to appeal to an exceptionally broad audience, with a good gender balance – again, unlike some museums in London!
The opportunity to work in one of the great Celtic museums has a particular appeal for me. Having been born in Belfast and studied Archaeology and Irish History in Scotland, I am glad now to have the chance to learn more about Welsh culture and history.
David Anderson's Blog