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Carmarthenshire Museum reopens for National Gallery painting exhibition

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It will be the first time the museum has been open to the public since 2020 when it closed for phase one of improvement, funded by Carmarthenshire County Council.

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People will be able to visit from Saturday to see Jean-Siméon Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’, a painting from the National Gallery’s masterpiece collection, which was painted by the 18th century French artist in around 1740–1.

Carmarthenshire Museum was chosen by the National Gallery as one of only three museums in the UK to exhibit part of its collection.

The museum, in Abergwili, re-opens following completion of the first phase of restoration by Carmarthenshire County Council which has invested significantly to create a better environment for museum collections.  

The expansive programme of phased works includes roof repairs, two new galleries, re-building of the chimneys and decorative stonework.

Phase one involved making the historic landmark building watertight, installing a new roof, restoring stonework on the front of the building, repairing over 100 windows, restoring the iconic lantern window over the museum’s central hall and the distinctive carved stone porch – both legacies of the building’s past as the palace of the Bishops of St Davids.

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The museum also has a new shop to showcase gifts inspired by the museum collections and regional crafts and will open next week.

The museum entrance has also been adapted and is fully accessible with a gentle ramp and a power assisted outer door. Other sensitive modernisations have also been carried out.

Phase two of the ongoing restoration works is well underway and involves upgrading two galleries on the ground floor.  

This work, funded by Welsh Government, is expected to be completed by Easter.

The final phase will focus on smaller projects throughout the museum and the park and will get underway later this year.

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During the museum’s closure, the surrounding Bishop’s Park has also undergone a transformation under the management of the Tywi Gateway Trust, featuring accessible pathways, landscaping, interpretation, and planting after the council granted £300,000 towards the cost of developing disused outbuildings into a vibrant visitor centre and café within the museum grounds. 

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said: “A huge amount of restoration work has been already done and is continuing at Carmarthenshire Museum, and we are working towards a completion date later this year.

“We are pleased that we have been able to complete phase one of these works just in time to host this magnificent painting as part of the National Gallery’s Masterpiece Tour.

“We wanted to be able to welcome visitors back as soon as was possible so we kindly ask our visitors to bear with us as we complete the rest of the phased restoration works that are underway at the museum. Investing in our museums and engaging in cultural activity has a demonstrable positive impact on starting well, living well and ageing well.

“Our museums are the family photobook of the history of our county, documenting where we’ve come from and helping to shape the unique cultural identity of our future generations.”

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(Lead. image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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