Stop disposal of Agricultural exhibits from the former Coate Agricultural Museum Swindon.
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Cllr Garry Perkins and Esther Harper, Assistant Curator (Agricultural collections) Swindon Museum & Heritage, Swindon Borough Council. I am calling on you to cease the disposal of exhibits from the former Coate Agricultural Museum and instead make them available to museums in Swindon.
On 31 December 2016 the Coate Agricultural Museum was badly damaged by fire. At the time many local experts and heritage professionals offered help with rescuing and storing of the artefacts, farm tools and machinery that could be salvaged, these offers of help were refused. It took several weeks for the council to remove the salvageable contents that had sat unsecured and open to the elements the whole time.
It was not clear to the public or anyone else where the items had been taken for storage and how many items had been destroyed, damaged or had simply gone missing during this time.
The agricultural museum housed a unique collection of artefacts, agricultural machinery, tools, photographs and documents also railway and other miscellaneous items important to Swindon’s agricultural and industrial heritage. It is unsurprising given that Swindon was a small market town where agriculture was of upmost importance before the railways came that we should have such a significant collection. Most items had been donated singly or in small groups by farms and retired farmers from across the borough. These are not just relics of past times but an important and fascinating record of how life was for those who cultivated the land here in Swindon and surrounds.
Many have felt that SBC have failed to make the most of this wonderful collection in the last 40 years and after the dreadful fire we are now very disappointed that SBC & Swindon Museums & Heritage are quietly disposing of this collection. The disposal list makes for very depressing reading and some items have sustained considerable damage. But rather than offer these items to local museums who might have the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to restore them you have decided to dispose of them without any consultation with the larger heritage community organisations here in Swindon or indeed the public. We feel this is completely unacceptable behaviour.
We request that you immediately stop the disposal of the items and consult the heritage community and local museums such as the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate (an obvious choice), to see if they would be interested in offering a new home for the collection and once you have exhausted this process,and should there remain items you cannot find homes for locally, you will openly announce your intention to dispose of the remainder in a transparent manner.
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