The campaign group set up to try and get Swindon Museum and Art Gallery opened again at Apsley House has moved to set the record straight on what it calls "myths". 

Save Our Museum and Art Gallery was founded earlier in the summer by Linda Kasmaty and other members of the Friends of the Museum group when it was announced by Swindon Borough Council that it would not reopen the building in Bath Road.

The council says it is not suitable – it needs extensive repairs and is not accessible to wheelchair users – and it only has space to show a very small fraction of the 20,000-strong collection of art and artefacts.

Instead the plan is to show art and artefacts from the collections at the civic offices and in pop up galleries as part of Art on Tour until a new purpose-built gallery and museum is built in the Cultural Quarter in the town centre.

Save our Museum and Art Gallery says it is fully in favour of the Cultural Quarter plans but is concerned at the time they will take to be realised.

The group, in its Facebook post, says: “Myth: Apsley House is so inaccessible it is unfit for purpose. Truth: Apsley House is far from perfect but if accessibility was such a problem it would not have been granted its status as an Arts Council  accredited museum. 

"Keeping the collections in Apsley House is the most accessible medium term solution – it is free to enter and if the council wants to make it more accessible it should start by opening on Sundays Like Steam.”

“Myth: Showing small exhibitions in locations around town will make the artworks more accessible. Truth: Strict conditions prohibit showing most of the Swindon Collection in non-museum sites. And if the council really believes this to be the case, why is it hoping to build a new, bigger museum and art gallery. We have supported the Art on Tour initiative financially as outreach to schools, colleges and other interest groups is an important part of any museum and gallery’s work. But it is no substitute for a visit to the museum and art gallery itself and works hived off to public or private locations around town will be largely inaccessible to students and visitors.”

The grade-II listed building at the corner of Bath Road and Victoria Road is covered in scaffolding as work makes it suitable for sale. 

The campaign group objects to this and says in its post: “Myth: Selling Apsley House now is necessary to help fund the cultural quarter. Truth: this makes no sense. the proceeds  of the sale will make no meaningful contribution to funding the cultural quarter’s estimated cost of £80m, and will be eroded by inflation before a new gallery can be built.”

It concludes: “Myth: The Civic Offices will be a better temporary home than Apsley House. Truth: We are told the displays will open up on an “incremental” basis. What does that mean? No details of this plan have been published; it has not been costed, and the budget is totally unrealistic.”

The cabinet member for culture, heritage, leisure and town centre experience, Robert Jandy is leading the drive to create the new cultural quarter and the plan to exhibit art at the civic offices.

He  said: “We have always tried to maintain an open dialogue with members of SoMAG throughout this process and we are more than happy to answer all the points they have raised with them directly rather than through the newspaper.

“A report will be discussed at the next cabinet meeting which will provide more detail on the plans to make the museum and art gallery’s collections more accessible at the Civic Offices.”

The next cabinet meeting will be held at 6pm on Wednesday, December 1 at the council offices in Euclid Street.

The fate of Apsley House has caused a something of a rift between the borough council which owns the building and the collections of art and artefacts in the museum and gallery and many of the  members of the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

The previous cabinet member for culture and heritage  Dale Heenan stepped down after a row where he accused the leadership of the group of being untrustworthy after they publicised details of meetings and a report where it was first suggested Apsley House remain closed.