South Scotland

New Abbey Museum of Costume closure announced

Costume museum
Image caption The museum near Dumfries first opened to the public in 1982

National Museums Scotland has announced it is to close the National Museum of Costume near New Abbey.

It follows a meeting of trustees and a consultation period on the fate of the Dumfries and Galloway site.

There was cross-party support in the south of Scotland for the fight to keep it open.

However, NMS said that it had taken the decision "with great regret" to shut the facility, which first opened to the public in 1982.

Concerns over the fate of the museum first surfaced late last year.

NMS said that reduced funding and low visitor numbers meant it had to consider the site's future.

It claimed the net operational cost of running the facility was £220,000-a-year.

The museum, which is shut for the winter, will not re-open in the spring.

The Shambellie House site is owned by the Scottish government.

NMS has been in discussion with the government and Dumfries and Galloway Council to consider appropriate future uses of the site for the benefit of the region.

Bruce Minto, chairman of the NMS trustees, said: "It is with great regret that we have taken the decision to close the National Museum of Costume.

"While this has been an extremely difficult decision for the board of trustees, we are clear that, in the current challenging financial climate, it is a necessary part of a range of cost savings which ensures the long-term future of our national collections."

NMS director Dr Gordon Rintoul said the decision had only been taken after consideration of "all other options".

"The low number of visitors to the site, along with the high operational costs, is simply not sustainable," he said.

"In addition, the domestic layout of Shambellie House places limitations on it being used effectively as a national museum."

He said NMS remained committed to delivering services to Dumfries and Galloway via loans, exhibitions and outreach programmes.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said £20,000 was being provided for a feasibility study for potential future uses of the building.

She said she was "keen to find a solution for the future of the site".

"I think it is essential that all possible avenues are explored to maximise the potential of Shambellie House and its contribution to the life of the local community," she added.

Dumfries and Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown said the news came as "no surprise to many people".

"Although NMS has gone through a token consultation exercise over the past few weeks, it was clear that unless the Scottish government intervened, Shambellie would close," he said.

"This decision shows that once again our region is the forgotten part of Scotland in the eyes of the Scottish government."

SNP South of Scotland MSP Dr Aileen McLeod said she was "dismayed" by the decision.

"NMS has its reasons for closing the museum but I do not think that it is a good decision for Dumfries and Galloway," she said.

She welcomed the funding for a feasibility study and added: "If we have lost the battle to save Shambellie, then we must now look at what we could do with it for the future."

'Substantial investment'

Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said it had been clear since last year that closure was the "preferred option".

"At a time when Edinburgh's national museum has undergone a substantial programme of investment, people across Dumfries and Galloway will understandably question why Shambellie House has had to be axed," he said.

"I fully intend to hold NMS good on its promise of holding more events throughout Dumfries and Galloway and expect it to publish full details of its roving exhibitions and outreach programmes as soon as possible."

The offer of feasibility study funding was described as "adding insult to injury" by Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson.

"I do not believe that all options have been looked at, and cannot hide my disappointment at the way in which this decision has been reached," he said.

"It is clear that NMS had its mind made up from the outset, and no amount of cross-party political lobbying or local representation has persuaded it to think again."

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