We write to express our concerns over the proposal by the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) to close the National Museum of Costume at Shambellie House New Abbey, Dumfries & Galloway.
The National Museum of Costume has been at Shambellie House for 30 years and NMS claims it does not attract sufficient numbers of visitors to justify its existence. The proposal to close it is in stark contrast to the way it has developed and invested in the National Museum of Flight and the National Museum of Rural Life where it has invested heavily and relaunched to great acclaim and growing visitor numbers.
By contrast the Costume Museum seems to be the Cinderella collection of NMS and has not seen any major investment and not surprisingly visitor numbers are low. The museum represents less than 1% of the NMS budget yet it is the only national collection in Dumfries & Galloway, giving it much greater significance.
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We have seen a welcome trend of national bodies seeking to make their collections more accessible by establishing regional galleries – The National Galleries at Duff House in Banff and now the V&A in Dundee. It seems perverse for NMS to be reversing this move to greater accessibility. Allowing this to close would set a dangerous precedent for Scotland.
NMS have proved it has the skills and will to make its museums popular without compromising the integrity of the collections as the relaunch of the Museum of Flight and more spectacularly the redevelopment of the National Museum proves. Shambellie has been too small to house its collection of costumes so the real solution would be to redevelop this site and for us to see the same kind of improvement that has happened at all other sites.
The property at Shambellie was donated to the museum and if this closure goes through the building may revert to its former owners and could be lost as a public asset forever. Closure is a soft option for management and we urge the trustees to reject this once and for all. We call on all the parties to get together and find the right solution to see this collection take its rightful place in Scotland.
Gordon Mann (Chairman of Destination Dumfries & Galloway) and others,