Activists hold demonstration to save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

Art lovers have gathered in the Old Town to urge Swindon Borough Council to use Freedom Day to ‘free our crocodile’.

As Covid-19 restrictions in England have been dropped, more than 100 activists from Save Our Musuem and Art Gallery have shown up outside the closed Apsley House building in Bath Road to demand it reopen as soon as possible.

The slogan of their posters refers to the enormous studded gharial crocodile which has been a popular feature in the museum’s collection since 1935.

One of the organizers of the event was Linda Kasmaty, president of the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

She said: “It was good to see so many people here – it shows how strong the feelings there is about it and there were a lot of strong feelings here.

“We are simply asking that the museum be reopened as soon as possible.”

Another support Jane Milner-Barry – also an Old Town councilor – said: “We understand that Apsley House is not a perfect building for collections, and we are happy that the council is looking for a solution and a better one. place to house and display them.

“But until he has a better solution, Apsley House should be reopened. Museums all over the country are reopening, they are inviting people, but not Swindon’s.

“It was such a busy place with a lot of life. There were children’s workshops every Saturday which were very popular. It all came to a halt almost 18 months ago – and keeping it closed would be just terrible for Swindon.

“The board should open it as soon as possible.”

A dispute over the museum and art gallery saw culture and heritage cabinet member Dale Heenan resign. Responsibility now rests with Councilor Robert Jandy.

He said: “Today’s gathering shows how much people care about the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and I want to assure local residents that I share their passion for the collections. art and heritage of the borough.

“Our collections are very important to us and they must be maintained in appropriate conditions in an environment that enhances them and is accessible to all.

“That’s why we have big plans to build a new art pavilion in the downtown cultural district. But we have to be realistic because creating such a fantastic installation from scratch is going to take some time. ”

He said the current museum and gallery were too expensive to reopen.

“We cannot reopen the current museum and art gallery home at Apsley House as a significant amount of repairs have to be done for hundreds of thousands of pounds and even then the building would not be fully accessible, “said Coun Jandy.

“It is not a question of making an annual saving. The current museum and art gallery are simply no longer suited to their function, and the constraints of the building make it unlikely.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have created new and innovative ways to share our collections and our Art on Tour exhibitions have allowed us to share our fabulous works of art with local residents.

“However, we recognize that this does not replace enjoying the works of art and heritage in a fixed location.

“This is why the council agents are currently committed to putting the collections back on display in a fixed location as soon as possible and I hope that the local art and heritage groups can work with us so that we can reopen the Swindon museum and art gallery in another location. for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

More than 2,600 people have signed a petition calling for Apsley House to reopen.

It can be found on using the terms “save the Swindon Museum”.

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