The new Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is nearly ready to open.

The town's collection of paintings and historic artifacts was formerly located in Apsley House in Old Town.

But work has been underway to transform the upper floor of the Civic offices in Euclid Street as the collection's new permanent home.

The museum is set to open its doors to the public this Spring, providing no unexpected problems arise between now and then. 

But before it does the great and the good of the borough were invited to look around, as the art and artefacts are being installed.

Museum Director Frances Yeo showed the VIP party of Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Rose Troughton and council leader Jim Robbins and chairman of the Friends of Swindon Museum & Arts Gallery Linda Kasmaty around the rooms, mostly empty, but with several artworks and artefacts already installed.

Ms Kasmaty said: “It’s wonderful. I’m almost lost for words and how excited and pleased I am that we will have somewhere to go to see the artifacts and art.

"It’s been four years since we’ve been able to do it and to see it coming on like this is just wonderful.”

This Is Wiltshire: An exhibit on Swindon Town's greatest momentCllr Robbins said: “I’ve long believed that we don’t make enough noise about Swindon’s cultural impact and the superb collection the town has.

"It’s a huge thing for a council this size to have such a fantastic art collection, ceramics collection and collection of artefacts.

“I’m really excited that this will be a place for all Swindonians and hope they will want to come here.”

Mrs Troughton, who has long been an art-lover said: “Sir Kenneth Clarke, when he was chairman of the Arts Council said: “They take the arts seriously In Swindon” and indeed we do.

“This is a quite extraordinary collection of the very best of modern British art. To have works by Gwen John, Augustus John, Henry Moore, LS Lowery, Ben Nicholson, and my friend Maggie Hambling.

"I texted her last night, and she said: “Art is a gift from the gods which must be honoured and offered back up to them” and we are doing that here.”

This Is Wiltshire: Councillor Marina Strinkovsky with an exhibit in the prehistory roomCouncillor Marina Strinkovsky is the cabinet member for heritage, arts and culture and is in political charge of the project.

She said: “I have been sold on using this building since the idea first came up; I can’t think of a better use for this beautiful building – this is almost unique being an art deco civic office, and now it is unique being an art deco civic offices and museum and gallery.”

Councillors from across the political divide were united in their excitement.

Labour’s Jane Milner-Barry said: “I hope it spreads out and more of the building could be used to show the collection”

And Conservative group leader Gary Sumner, who was deputy leader of his party's administration when the project was started  said: ”I’d like to see this building given over to it- keep the chamber for civic occasions – but the rest of the building could display this and meetings could be held in other buildings."

The layout of the upper storey sees visitors come straight from the lift and stairs to reception, and a shop, and a changing exhibition space.

On one side will be sequential rooms for the museum, showing artefacts illustrating Swindon’s history from prehistoric times right up to the modern day, with the latest exhibit being a display of artefacts from the Covid -19 pandemic.

Other rooms will be used for displays of the Swindon collection of modern art, but with exhibitions of works borrowed from other museums planned as well.

There will be a dedicated room for school parties where pupils will be able to eat their lunch and engage in educational activities.