A sign that says "Sorry, we're closed
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EMPTY shops across Torfaen could be turned into temporary ‘pop up’ museums as part of a drive to raise awareness of a local attraction. 

The Torfaen Museum, at Pontypool Park House, has suggested holding the week-long events as a way of finding out what local people would like to see displayed and to raise its profile. 

Last year Torfaen Borough Council agreed to provide the museum trust with an extra £25,000 on top of its £50,000 block grant so it could make changes to attract more visitors and improve the displays at the building which is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays and had already dropped admission charges to try and boost numbers through its doors. 

Despite the council agreeing in July to provide the additional funding it wasn’t taken up but the council will make the money available again in the current 2024/25 financial year. 

It will again be used for efforts at boosting visitor numbers, including by holding displays across the borough to increase awareness of the museum, which are intended to make it more secure financially. A ‘Welcome to Torfaen’ gallery to foster a sense of belonging among regular visitors and guide visitors around the borough will also be created.

Other ideas include hosting week-long ‘pop-up museum’ in empty shops while other outreach events could be held at leisure centres, theatres and community halls. 

The trust has updated its “vision strategy” for 2024/25 which also includes an “exit plan” for the additional funding, with its block grant having reduced from £70,000 in 2019/20. 

Other plans include the employment of an outreach and education officer on a fixed term basis; a review of its collections; more outreach work in schools to support the ‘Cynefin’ local history element of the new Welsh curriculum; working with community groups to form a ‘critical partners group’ including LGBTQ individuals and those from ethnic minority backgrounds and with disabilities. 

A Welsh Government grant will also be used to renovate the Courtyard at the museum and its planned to hold events there such as food markets, a Pride event and increase volunteering opportunities. 

Improved partnerships to encourage footfall would include hosting Torfaen Play Service sessions, workshops with Head4Arts and offering a Warm Spaces hub with the Torfaen Volunteer Alliance and the council. 

Last year it was intended to use the money to increase the curator’s contracted hours from 35 to 37 a week, to better reflect workload and provide adequate hours to complete all works, and the assistant curator’s from 24 hours per week to 35. 

Those are now listed as increasing the museum services manager’s hours and the assistant curator is now described as the curator. 

If the plans are successful the council has acknowledged the trust may wish to discuss with it the possibility of raising its core funding while the council also awaiting a report it commissioned, last year, on the financial support it provides the museum trust and four other cultural organisations. 

Those are Blaenavon Heritage Group, Blaenavon Workmen’s Hall, the Congress Theatre Cwmbran and Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre.