MONMOUTHSHIRE'S museums helped bring more than £1.7 million into the local economy last year, the local authority has said in a passionate defence of its cultural services.

The county's museums had been described as "unambitious" during a recent economy and development select committee meeting, with one councillor saying visitors viewed the tourist sites as "dry and archaic".

But, responding to those criticisms, the council said its museums service was working constantly to make sure its services and exhibits were "relevant in modern society".


In terms of 'tourism impacts' – estimates of how much a visitor to one of Monmouthshire's museums may spend in the county during their trip – the council said the service had contributed £1.734 million to the local economy in 2018/19.

A spokeswoman for Monmouthshire council said there had been 26,915 visitors to Abergavenny Museum in that time. Likewise, there had been 17,313 and 15,286 visitors to Chepstow and Monmouth museums, respectively.

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Chepstow Museum

But she added the museums service is focused on quality, not just visitor numbers and income.

Rejecting claims the museums were unambitious, the council spokeswoman pointed to a diverse range of recent exhibition themes, from the works of artist JMW Turner to a celebration of the role of Monmouthshire women in the suffrage movement and the war effort.

The museums had also developed exhibitions in partnership with their local communities, she said.

In Chepstow, volunteers with ties to Beachley Barracks have helped catalogue a history of the Army Apprentices College located there.

In Abergavenny, local residents helped devise an interactive gallery on the town's archaeology.

And in Monmouth, pupils from town's comprehensive school helped create a history of Rockfield Studios, a legendary recording studio used by artists such as Black Sabbath, The Stranglers, and Oasis, and, more recently, Idles and Kasabian.

The council also said it was making its museums more 'dementia-friendly', with recent 'Memory Cafe' events in Monmouth museum involving students dressed in period costume serving traditional meals to local dementia sufferers, who had been invited to the museum with their carers.

"To meet our audiences’ expectations, we are working to ensure we have a wide range of engaging interpretation – such as scholarly text, hands on activities, low tech, high tech, object rich," the council spokeswoman said. "Monmouthshire museums continue to explore ways of maximising the services and attractions we can offer to visitors including associated shops and cafes, and also working with local small businesses to encourage people to buy local while also encouraging the use of traditional skills and arts."