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SMAG needs new home

I AM looking forward to the day when the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery collections will be accessible to everyone in the beautiful new low-maintenance building whose striking design has already become so familiar.

And I would advise those who recommend siting the museum in one of our Victorian buildings to take care before hailing Ed Vaizey as an advocate for their cause.

Ed Vaizey was Minister for Culture between 2010 and 2016. During those years Mr Vaizey, following his party’s “austerity” programme with conviction, presided over a relentless attack on the UK’s statutory library service.

I have heard that library campaigners who gained a meeting with Mr Vaizey would find his manner quite encouraging. Then they would return home to find the slashing of budgets, loss of professional staff, reduction of hours, closure of libraries, eviction of libraries from prime locations, and handing over of libraries to parishes, voluntary groups or fitness companies continuing unabated.

So, what does Mr Vaizey have to say about museums? Firstly, “The digital transformation needs to continue”. Secondly, “we really need to challenge the bricks and mortar motif of the museum itself.” Could it be that in Mr Vaizey’s view neither libraries nor museums serve any purpose in a digital age, and that looking at a photo of an object, or a photo of a painting, is the same as looking at the real thing?

Of course, virtual museums and art galleries would be a lot cheaper to maintain than the bricks and mortar kind – whether Victorian or contemporary - and the bricks and mortar could be sold off. Is that what is at the back of Mr Vaizey’s mind?

Jane Milner-Barry, Old Town

...or use what we’ve got

SO, according to Rod Hebden the case for the New Museum and Art Gallery is strong. Well, of course he would say that. He is, after all, the director who is leading the plans to build it. If it doesn’t get built he is out of a job which is no doubt a nice little earner.

This response from Mr Hebden comes after former cultural secretary Ed Vaizey advocated a move away from new builds. Surely there are other requirements within our town which are more important than this architectural monstrosity. I can think of many off the top of my head.

Stop cutting buses for one. Stop the vast increase which is expected in council tax bills. Instead, if we need a new site for a new museum let’s look at what is already available.

This council of ours seems to be pretty good at knocking things down - in many cases things that haven’t been up all that long. Instead of carrying on in this vein lets see what there is in town that can be used and preserved as part of Swindon heritage and also encompass the museum.

One place springs to mind. Yes, it’s the old Mechanics Institute. It’s large, empty, central and, I assume from the way things were built years ago, probably structurally sound. Of course, it needs renovating and probably parts need altering. However with some £22m it should be possible.

David Collins, Blake Crescent, Swindon