Analysis: Marketing Wales' heritage to the world

Inside National Museum Wales Image copyright NMW

The final form Historic Wales will take is still under discussion, but its purpose is already defined: to merge some of the commercial functions of Cadw with those of National Museum Wales (NMW).

It may ultimately impact on other institutions such as the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

But its creation is the result of a study, undertaken by PwC in March 2016 and published in the summer, to examine ways of maximising the potential commercial revenue of Cadw, the Welsh government body that looks after many of Wales' historic castles and monuments.

The report made a number of recommendations, from loose collaboration to a complete merger of national heritage bodies such as the museum and library.

A steering group, with representatives from the heritage sector as well as unions representing staff, is currently considering areas where greater collaboration could be achieved.

Image copyright NMW
Image caption National Museum Wales includes the National Slate Museum

There is widespread agreement that collaboration can enhance the sector, but it is the prospect of formally merging some activity that has made the proposal so controversial.

Officially, the final form will be decided by the Welsh Government once the organisations and the unions have had their say.

That is likely to be early in 2017, after which a public consultation will be carried out.

The Welsh Labour government said it made a manifesto commitment to establish Historic Wales and the economy secretary said closer collaboration was vital if the bodies are to increase their commercial success.

Continued public funding for the institutions is not under threat, but the government says only a closer working relationship can generate more private income and present a united front in marketing Wales' heritage to the world.

For many of those who have objected, any new organisation that takes functions away from the national museum will be undermining its independence and stripping it of its ability to raise its own commercial income.

The Museums Association has warned that any commercial merger would have a wider negative impact on NMW's exhibition programming and on its ability to form partnerships with communities and museums across Wales.

The Welsh Government insists it is taking a pragmatic approach and is keen to listen to expert voices and the public before Historic Wales is established.

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