Museums in Wales urged to appeal to the young

School pupils at the Egypt Centre in Swansea Museums in Wales are being urged to follow the example of the Egypt Centre in Swansea by appealing to a younger audience

Museums in Wales are being urged to look at new ways of attracting younger visitors to help them weather tough financial times.

They are also being asked to recruit more volunteers, play a greater role in tourism and be more inclusive.

The challenges are laid out in the Welsh Assembly Government's first ever museum strategy.

Heritage minister Alun Ffred Jones said museums had a role to play beyond preserving Welsh history and culture.

According to the assembly government, an estimated 160 organisations hold collections and display them to the public in Wales, and therefore could be called museums.

Case Study - Wendy Goodridge, Egypt Centre, Swansea

Wendy Goodridge

I was the first volunteer - I knocked on the doors in 2007.

I was involved in the launch of the museum, then employed as a museum assistant and I'm now the assistant curator, my dream job.

Almost everyone who works here has been a volunteer - some have gone on to work in museums across the country. I think the attraction is a sense of ownership and belonging. It's a family atmosphere and the main thing is it builds self esteem. We have got volunteers who now have so much confidence they give guided tours and talks. I think that enthusiasm is infectious - it's their museum and this comes across to the visitors.

Our child volunteers come in on weekends and school holidays. They are actually an attraction themselves now - we have visitors who come in on a Saturday just because they want to see the children in action. Their imagination is so amazing and some of the things they come out with are really funny.

The oldest is Swansea Museum, founded in 1841, where Mr Jones is launching the five-year plan.

He said museums could make an important contribution to education, developing skills and social and economic well-being.

"Wales is a unique and enriching place in which to live and work, with a distinctive character," he added.

"The museums of Wales play a critical part in both preserving this rich heritage and in sharing the excitement of their stories locally, nationally and internationally.

"Museums need to build on their tradition of working together to make effective use of resources.

"I urge museums to develop different ways of working and look beyond existing structures, to explore further joint working and innovative ways to generate income.

"Our first national museums strategy for Wales offers realistic actions that museums can take to improve services and demonstrate the benefits of museums to everybody."

The strategy highlights a number of museums that have adopted innovative ways to engage the public.

These include an award-winning volunteering scheme at the Egypt Centre in Swansea University.

All but two members of staff started out as volunteers while over 100 people - including schoolchildren - give their time to help out.

It also praises a festival sharing the oral history of ethnic minority influence in the development of Newport and an Iron Age round house and windmill helping to regenerate rural Anglesey.

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