Our museum resource centre is not just for Ludlow – it’s for the world – so let’s save it from antediluvian cuts

No one was certain how many people would turn up to last Thursday morning’s meeting to discuss the cuts to the Ludlow Museum Resource Centre. The organisers had booked Oscars in the Ludlow Assembly Rooms for the meeting but this was quickly overwhelmed. The assembled company, numbering more than 180 on my count, decanted into the main theatre.

MRC_meeting_audience

Museum Resource Centre staffing is to be reduced from three people to just a half time post based in Shrewsbury from April. The person in this post will serve the MRC as well as other facilities around the county. That means limited opening hours here in Ludlow and that volunteers and researchers will be turned away from our world class collections. The legacy of Roderick Murchison and other geologists, as well as the many archaeologists and historians who have contributed to our collections here in Ludlow, are from now on going to be almost very difficult to access.

murchison_cross_sectionThe Murchison cross section 1852

Such is the concern over these cuts, particularly amongst geologists, Thursday’s meeting drew people from all over the country.

Giles Miller, a senior curator at Natural History Museum and chairman of the national Geological Curators’ Group told the audience why he had travelled from London. “What you have here is a real gem, an amazing resource” he said. “The visitor centre is second to none,” but if the cuts are implemented, “it will be like having a Ferrari in the garage, but saying the keys and the petrol are in Shrewsbury.”

Sir Neil Cossons can boast an illustrious career as former director of the London Science Museum, the first director of the Ironbridge Museum Trust and a former chairman of English Heritage. He told the audience that the Museum Resource Centre is internationally important. He said we need to take a positive and optimistic view on how facilities like the MRC should be managed and run. He believed Shropshire Council lacked expertise:

We need to establish a group to meet Shropshire Council face-to-face to demand a five and ten year vision for the collections. We need to do the job for [Shropshire Council] they are not capable of doing themselves.

Michael Rosenbaum, Ludlow resident and Emeritus Professor of Engineering Geology at Nottingham Trent University, described how a geology trip around Ludlow with former curator John Norton that set him on his career path. He told the audience the geology collection was world renowned and without the in-house expertise to back it up, it would affect researchers across the globe.

Professor Hugh Torrens, Emeritus Professor of History of Science and Technology at Keele University, hailed the significance of the Ludlow collection and said:

The Silurian was invented here. We should do something similar to the Jurassic Coast in Ludlow. It is time to build on the resource centre, not close it.

Much Wenlock historian and former Shrewsbury Museum curator Vivien Bellamy said we need to open out the debate to cover all museums in Shropshire as all are threatened. “We need a strategy to support all museums over the next five years.” She suggested that Shropshire might need to form a conservation partnership with Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

The meeting also heard from volunteer historians and geologists who worried how all the current voluntary effort could be squeezed into one day a week. They described how valuable the Museum Resource Centre is to them and how valuable their work is for other researchers.

A letter from Philip Dunne was read out. He pledged to help and said the resource centre must be kept open full time with qualified staff. There should also be sufficient skilled staff to support the Buttercross.

No one from Shropshire Council attended but the council circulated a statement.

For my part, I expressed concern that it will be hard to reverse Shropshire Council’s plans for staff cuts. We should nevertheless fight them. We must also look to the longer term. We may have to run facilities ourselves that Shropshire Council might have run in the past.

We hold these collections not just for Ludlow, but for all Shropshire and the world beyond. We have a civic duty to allow access to them. Shropshire Council’s plans are antediluvian. The council fails to understand the value of the collections to the community, to worldwide research and to our local economy.

To join the Save Ludlow Museum Resource Centre campaign, email: saveLMRC@gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Our museum resource centre is not just for Ludlow – it’s for the world – so let’s save it from antediluvian cuts

  1. “No one from Shropshire Council attended”. What a surprise. 60 years ago it was councillors who tore down numerous historical buildings in Shrewsbury centre, Shifnal where I grew up, and many other Shropshire towns, so why we should expect them to do the right thing is beyond me. First and foremost they are philistines, so none of this means anything to them. They’d tear down the centre of Ludlow for a shopping centre if there was a buck in it and they thought they’d get away with it.

  2. I am feeling a gradual erosion of everything we hold dear to make our local society both safe and all the amenities and quality is gradually being funnelled away.
    Look at what we are losing, Police Station, Ambulance Station, Reductions in Fire services, educational cuts, facilities for the elderly, we lost the hospital which Mr Dunne fought for so hard and would have benefited us so much, now the Museum.
    There has to be a balance between getting the national debt under control and doing it all at once so we just lose all that we cherish and that keeps us safe and secure as well.

    My fear is that when the national debt is paid off and we are paying the same amount of council tax, VAT, tax on earnings they won;t repeal the cuts and rebuild what we have lost.

    The gradual erosion and apathy of people generally leads to the loss of so many things and I for one mourn for the loss.

  3. CIVIC DUTY…a phrase that is almost quaint in this BUSINESS LED age. The Cabinet up in Shrewsbury have no concept of what this is, it is an old fashioned word to them, not Fit For Purpose. What can we expect from a bunch of free marketeers who believe Counties should be run as Limited Companies, without any mandate from the people they are privatising democracy, and we are all laying down and letting them do it. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’ as the song goes.

  4. John Norton would be turning in his grave at these latest proposals. For those who don’t know, he received his MBE for transforming Ludlow museum from a humble collection of about half a dozen stuffed penguins in the fifties, to an international research centre. I remember eminent scientists from Estonia, France and elsewhere making special trips to view the fossil fish collections.

    Local children would turn up with things they had found to show him, and some later became inspired to pursue a career in natural history as a result of their encounter with him.
    It was bad enough that the council put a boss over him at one time who thought that you should carbon date a flint axe, but this…………….

    The same boss also sent a critical memo to an employee about the wearing of unusual hats.
    When she became head of museum services for an entire region of the country, and he applied for a job there, she politely declined.

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