What town or city in its right mind closes down the museum of its OWN civic history?
That little backwater known as 'Oxford' it would seem.
Despite the fact that the Museum of Oxford costs a mere £200,000 per year to run, and the only other source of local (town and gown) history 'The Oxford Story' - a hugely popular Disneyfied rollercoaster through Oxford's history on moving school desks has (oddly) closed down - the City Council in its wisdom is wielding an axe to this unprepossessing little museum nestled next to the Town Hall in the name of 'cost cutting', and without we taxpayers' consent.
Fair enough the MoO hasn't been modernised in years, but that's exactly why some of us like it. Too much refurbishment and interactive display can RUIN a museum. A couple of years ago I finally got round to visiting the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, only to find that it had become SO interactive and child-centred, there was virtually nothing left for grown-ups to look at. I came away feeling it a poor tribute to our once-proud seafaring nation.
Ironically enough two of Oxford's other museums, The Ashmolean (art and archeology) and the Pitt Rivers (anthropological history) are currently closed for multi-million pound refurbishments. Doubtless funded by donors, but ironic how bucketfuls of money can be spent on those, doubtless to their architectural detriment, but not a few pennies on the Museum of Oxford, no siree, not even for an ADVERTISING budget! Is it any wonder that it is not getting the footfall it deserves when it is almost being deliberately run into the ground, and granted no sensible and obvious connecting corridor to the next door Town Hall with its gallery, cafe and public conveniences either?
Following local press interest and the intervention of Oxford Civic Society with volunteer help, the Museum of Oxford has won a temporary reprieve for one year, but will still lose the majority of its staff, and its only hope of survival after that will be the formation of a Charitable Trust in time, to take it off the council's hands entirely. Which will in turn no doubt require an admission charge to subsidise, making it the city's only charging museum. As for new interactive exhibits presumably there was a job lot of these going when 'The Oxford Story' closed down.
Meanwhile I hear an expensive Czar of Culture has been hired by the Council to oversee its shrinking culture. Spot the obvious Council cost-saving, anyone?