Who would have known that Swindon holds one of the best collection of 20th century art works? Art, we own, but because of lack of space, cannot display!
On Wednesday the 15th March the club was given a talk on the Swindon Museum and Arts Gallery Project by the Director and Chief Executive of the Project Hadrian Ellory Van Dekker.
Hadrian began by stressing that the aim was not merely to relocate but to build an entirely new concept to promote civic pride, social inclusion and engagement.
The aim would be to include interactive science and engineering projects which would make it a key destination for schools in the area. It will also display the Town’s collection of 20th century Art which is one of the best in the country and tell the story of the development of Swindon from prehistoric times to the present.
He stressed that building for the future does not mean forgetting the past and explained problems with housing the new project in some existing buildings:
1) Being a listed building, Apsley House the existing museum could not be altered to make disability access possible.
2) The Mechanics Institute was design as a meeting place, theatre and library. To turn it into a Museum and Art gallery would involve transforming it to such an extent that it would no longer be the Mechanics Institute.
3) While the carriage works could possibly be used its location would not meet the aim of transforming the Town Centre and would be likely further to direct footfall away from the Town Centre to the Outlet Village.
The chosen site is to be on the old multi story car park near the Wyvern theatre with work due to begin in 2019 and to be completed in 2021. We were shown the design which was at first viewing rather frightening looking from one angle like two halves of a sinking ship and from another like a gigantic bow tie. However it is aimed to make it a signature building for Swindon and to that extent reminds one of Sydney and its Opera House.
The changing cost of building is shown by the fact that whereas the extension to the old Museum built in 1963 cost £64,000 the estimate for the new building is £22 million. The Project has a Board of seven Trustees who have the job of raising the funds. At the moment £6 million is already in the pot. It is aimed to get some funding from the Arts Council and as much as £10 million from the Lottery Fund.
It was impressive and, the sentimentalists who had visited the old Museum in their youth, were reassured when Hadrian said there would still be a place for the crocodile (strictly speaking a Cayman) which for many Swindon children has always been the most memorable exhibit!
By line: Dick Mattick