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A project to review Monmouthshire’s extensive museum collections, started in April 2020, has been moving forward apace. It comes as similar projects looking ensure collections are relevant to local communities takes place at museums across the UK.

The Collection Review Project 2020-2022 has given MonLife museums the opportunity to discover more about the objects and their connection to Monmouthshire’s story. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project has enabled staff to develop a more sustainable way of caring for collections. One of the aims of the project is look into the costs of long-term storage and conservation, and to ensure that resources are used appropriately.

The process has identified some objects within collections without a clear connection to Monmouthshire and these will now be offered to alternative homes. Items identified for removal will find a place in an appropriate UK museum in the first instance, a learning establishment or a relevant community organisation, with those left over sold at public auction. Money raised from sales will be used to conserve the museum collections.   Museums in Torfaen, Blaenavon and Hereford are among the museums we have transferred artefacts to.  For example, Y Gaer in Brecon, received a late 19th Century engraved walking stick which belonged to the Vicar of Llywel in Brecknockshire.

Cabinet member with responsibility for MonLife Museums, Councillor Lisa Dymock said: “As a local history museum service we want to focus our area on prioritising objects that are related to Monmouthshire people, businesses, communities and industries.  After careful thought and research by the museum team, and in-line with professional and ethical standards, some are being removed from our collection.”

This process is already having a positive impact on the museum’s work.  By removing artefacts which are not part of the Monmouthshire story and reorganising stores, museum colleagues are able to create much needed physical space which will allow for the collection of contemporary objects telling the story of events, people, and communities in today’s Monmouthshire.  Staff are also conducting physical checks to assess the condition of objects and their potential for use in future exhibitions.

Many duplicate or generic historic items, while having been removed from the formal museum collections have now found a new home with MonLife’s Learning Team, providing a wonderful resource for handling, reminiscence and outreach initiatives.  In addition, research into collections has resulted in the discovery and re-discovery of fascinating tales and material. One artefact discovered was an antique spoon. After looking through documentation dating back to the 1960s, the project team discovered that it came from the Skirrid Mountain Inn in Llanvihangel Crucorney and dates from the 17th century. Being able to conduct this research enabled to team to reunite this object with its story.

Councillor Dymock added: “I’m very grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for its support to enable our museum service to undergo this very valuable exercise.  It’s provided a very welcome boost to our learning and research, freed up valuable space in our museum stores and uncovered some fascinating stories as well as benefitting other museums who have been able to add to their collections.”