Ian Jones FRSA has given me permission to post the following email to Councillor Karen Shakespeare:
From: Ian Jones
To: cllr.karen.shakespeare atsign dudley.gov.uk
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 4:37 PM
Subject: Broadfield House Glass Museum
Dear Councillor Shakespeare
You will, I know, have had a pile of emails about Broadfield House Glass Museum. I can only apologise for adding to the pile, but here goes.
I have carried out a number of feasibility studies on museums and I am currently the secretary of an international museumsâ€™ committee, part of the International Council of Museums. A week ago a glassmaker phoned me as a fellow member of the Royal Society of Arts. He had noted my involvement in museums and wanted to know if I would care to sign a petition to save Broadfield House Glass Museum. I had never been to the museum, in spite of its great reputation. However, I did my homework and read the background information he sent me. Last Saturday I drove up to Stourbridge from London and had a look for myself. I was simply interested and I have no axe to grind and I am not being paid.
I think that to move the museum to the Red Cone site would be mistaken for a number of reasons:
1. The Red Cone site is in an unfortunate position on the edge of a very busy road. It is not a good site for a large and important museum and a glass making complex. Not only is acces difficult, but the site is limited and I cannot for the life of me see where the museum collection could fit in. It is not just the objects on display in the museum which have to be housed, but those in storage and all the related research material which museums of this importance hold. As matters stand there simply is not the space available. If the commercial Stuart Crystal Gift Centre and the tea rooms were to become available then conceivably most of the artefacts currently on display could be squeezed in â€“ at a pinch. However, this would involve a substantial amount of capital investment, not least because you will have a major building project on your hands â€“ and the site would still have very serious limitations.
1. The Museum has an international reputation - by any standard.
2. The building is first rate and the grounds outside are attractive. The location is not perfect and car parking is limited. However, the same can be said for the Red Cone site â€“ more so in fact.
3. Broadfield House has had a great deal of public money invested in it. All this will be wasted if the proposed move goes ahead.
4. The collection has taken many years of time and effort to build up and present to the public. The museum will have to start all over again. The objects may be there, but their presentation will have to be rethought from the ground up.
Seemingly the Council objective is to save money. Any money saved however will have to go towards the redevelopment of the Red Cone site â€“ and that will be substantial.
Almost 1,000 people have signed a petition against the move. If the move goes ahead the Council will attract a great deal of adverse criticism, and not just local. There are certainly no votes to be gained by a move, and the local press is hostile. Itâ€™s even made it to the BBC.
The museum belongs not only to Dudley - it is a national and international institution. As an attraction the Red Cone is limited. I found the whole place unimaginative â€“ a fine building unexploited. Some of the video displays were out of action and others were of poor quality. In short, one learns little about glass. It would make better sense for the Council to upgrade the Red Cone rather than contemplate the move of a good museum to a restricted site and join it to a poor partner.
It would be a far better use of resources if the Council were to keep the Broadfield Glass Museum collection where it is, and improve the visitor experience at the Red Cone. It would be an attractive proposition to learn about the fundamentals of glass at the Red Cone and then move on to Broadfield House to see what people can do with it.
Finally, a feasibility study is not necessary. I know, I have done them. Feasibility studies can be one of the quickest ways of parting needlessly with public money. There is sufficient information already available for the Council to make an informed decision. My proposal is simple: stick to the sites you have and make them better.
Secretary CAMOCmuseums of cities
2 Kelvedon Road
London SW6 5BW
Tel: +44 (0)20 7731 6012
Secretary atsign camoc.icom.museumwww.camoc.icom.museum