CAMPAIGNERS marked the second anniversary of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery's closure as the search for a suitable new home continues.

Apsley House had housed the paintings and exhibits since the 1930s but its closure at the start of the first lockdown on March 18 2020 soon became permanent.

Swindon Borough Council has resolved to sell Apsley House, and instead plan to include a new museum andgallery in the cultural quarter which they hope to build in the town centre.

In the meantime, some rooms on the first floor of the Civic Offices in Euclid Street will be altered to house some of the art and museum collections.

But it is feared that this short-term solution could end up becoming permanent if the process of planning and building the new cultural quarter takes longer than expected or is never finished.

The Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery's spokeswoman Linda Kasmaty said:  “We have had little opportunity to view the art and ceramics collections, and no opportunity to view the museum and archaeology collections for two years.

“We completely accept that Apsley House’s internal layout meant it wasn’t ideal in terms of accessibility, but it’s very clear that any next home for the museum and art gallery collections will not be a temporary solution.

“Experienced professionals in the property and development industries tell us the cultural quarter will take decades to finance and construct, which means the Civic Offices will actually be a permanent site for the collections.

“Creating new exhibition spaces for important historical artefacts, local archaeological finds and our nationally renowned British art collection is expensive if it is done properly, but it does need to be done properly to protect the collections and make the experience a positive one for visitors and researchers.

“We just want to sit down with the council and understand how they propose to deliver totally accessible new exhibition space within their budget which started off at £1.8million in 2019 but has since shrunk to £400,000.

"We genuinely don’t understand how that can be the case. We are very keen to fulfil our role of local champions for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, and hope that our gentle marking of the second anniversary of its closure will encourage Swindon Borough Council to share that thinking with us and the people of Swindon.”

The Friends of SMAG group launched in 1993 to help develop, maintain and enhance the best possible museum and art gallery for Swindon's citizens and visitors.

Since then, its has acted as local champions, providing input to management and ensuring formal community involvement in council decision-making about the museum and art gallery.