THE MUSEUM OF MILITARY MEDICINE: THE FUTURE OF OUR HERITAGE
Readers may be aware that the Army Medical Services Museum plans to move from its current location at Keogh Barracks and that it will be changing its name to The Museum of Military Medicine, but perhaps will not know the reasons for the proposed changes. In fact the project is picking up speed after several months of discussions with various partners, and now is a good time to explain what is happening.
The project to move the AMS Museum is being undertaken by the Army Medical Services Museum Trust, which has come to recognize that in order to build a sustainable future for the Museum’s collections it needs to look beyond its current regimental museum set-up ‘behind the wire’ and build an outward facing, more inclusive, cultural enterprise. There are several reasons for this, not least because the present location does not offer any scope for expansion, either in terms of facilities or developing footfall. A new vision for the Museum has been developed, one that aims “To inspire learning about past developments in military medicine through shared experience, world-class research, artefact collections and archives, and through programming and public displays, for the sustainment of a healthy future for all our citizens.” More specifically, it is the intention that The Museum of Military Medicine will facilitate public engagement with the history and development of the four Corps of the Army Medical Service―the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps and the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, reflected in the dedication of serving men and women to the service of the sick and wounded, including animals. As it stands, the AMS Museum no longer offers the kind of experiences expected by today’s museum visitors, and with limited visitor numbers at Keogh it is difficult to attract the kind of funding required to improve the offer.
The Board has been in negotiation with Cardiff City Council since last autumn about the possibility of establishing The Museum of Military Medicine in the city, and with its aid is investigating the purchase of the Bute Street Railway Station and adjacent Welsh Government land in Cardiff Bay on which to build a new facility that will meet the Board’s aspirations for the collections. In January 2016 the then chair of the Board met with Edwina Hart, Minister for the Economy, who gave her blessing to the project. Since then work has been taking place behind the scenes to ensure that the Trust will be in a position to purchase the building and land and secure funding for the new development.
The new facility will be a national museum with an international story, as befits the work of the four corps of the Army Medical Services, hence the change of name. Its new name reflects similar museums in other countries, such as the National Museum of Health and Medicine in the United States of America, which was originally established as the Army Medical Museum. The intention is that the new museum will tell the story of the four constituent corps in a way that is engaging, interactive and live, and will meet the expectations of contemporary audiences in a way that the current AMS Museum is no longer able to do. The new museum will also better preserve the precious manuscript and photographic archives, which are used by researchers from across the world.
The site in Cardiff was chosen after earlier approaches to other cities around the United Kingdom came to nought. Cardiff is viewed as an advantageous location due to its effective transport links; the city is no more than a two hour drive from the South West, London and the West Midlands, with good rail and air connections. Cardiff City Council also recognizes the significance of bringing a national collection to the city as part of its tourism offer as it seeks to establish itself as a European capital. Moreover, the Bute Street station has a direct connection with the AMS story, as it was the embarkation point for wounded soldiers in WWI on their way to the military hospitals in South Wales and the western side of England.