National Museum of Costume to close

The National Museum of Costume is “simply not sustainable” and is being closed, it has been announced.

The National Museum of Costume is “simply not sustainable” and is being closed, it has been announced.

The smallest of Scotland’s five national museums costs £220,000 a year to run, but receives only 10,000 visitors annually, with 5,000 people taking in the shop, café and grounds. The museum, at Shambellie House near New Abbey, Dumfries, is shut for winter and will not now reopen this spring.

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National Museums Scotland said it, like many other bodies, had had to work with reduced amounts of public cash.

The organisation has been making efficiency savings, has reduced staff numbers and is working to attract donations and sponsorship, but the financial climate is still difficult.

Bruce Minto, chairman of the trustees of National Museums Scotland, said closing the costume museum was a “necessary part of a range of cost savings”.

“It is with great regret that we have taken the decision to close the National Museum of Costume,” he said. “We are clear that in the current challenging financial climate it is a necessary part of a range of cost savings which ensures the long-term future of our national collections.”

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said the decision to shut the museum had been made “after extensive consideration of all other options across National Museums”.

He added: “The low number of visitors to the site, along with the high operational costs, is simply not sustainable. In addition, the domestic layout of Shambellie House places limitations on it being used effectively as a national museum.”

National Museums Scotland also includes the National Museum of Scotland, the National War Museum, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National Museum of Flight.

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Shambellie House was built in 1856 by the Stewart family, who gifted a costume collection to National Museums Scotland, which has maintained the building since 1978 and operated the museum there since 1982.

It is now planned to display a selection of items from the costume collection in new art and design galleries, scheduled to open in 2016 at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Dr Rintoul also said National Museums Scotland “remain committed to delivering services to Dumfries and Galloway” by loaning items, and staging exhibitions and outreach programmes.

South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume has campaigned against the closure plans. The Liberal Democrat said: “It was clear from my meetings with officials last year that this was always the preferred option and no amount of campaigning and lobbying … was going to sway decision makers in Edinburgh.”

Mr Hume said that after the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh underwent a substantial programme of investment, people in Dumfries and Galloway would “understandably question why Shambellie House has had to be axed”.

He added: “Now that Shambellie House will revert to Scottish Government ownership, the culture secretary [Fiona Hyslop] must come forward with concrete plans on her intentions for the site to ensure it is protected for future generations and not sold off to the highest bidder.”