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Cynon Valley Museum, Aberdare

Founded: 2001/2016     Governance: LA-supported Independent Trust        Scope: Local history    Visited: Autumn 2021

My sister-in-the-Spirit Cylene the Goth recently moved to Aberdare and having tried to visit the Museum found it shut due to covid, but by the time I turned up in October it was triumphantly open again - although much to my disappointment the café was still waiting for the go-ahead. It may be back by the time you go! I use the word triumphant because there is a great deal of pride about this place, and justifiably. You will notice in the heading the dual foundation date: the Museum closed in 2014 due to funding cuts and a dogged group of locals formed a trust to reopen it, moving to an old iron works just across the road from Tesco. Lottery funding has made possible a visually vibrant and exciting exhibition space full of colour and life. There are two small gallery spaces occupied, when I was there, by a show of work from a group of local art societies, and a main gallery organised around a mocked-up old grocery store which you enter only to find the bell ringing to alert a non-existent shopkeeper of your presence, and at the sound of the bell (I found), you become possessed by a mixture of amusement and slight embarrassment. The 'story' of the Cynon Valley and its people moves somewhat abruptly from Neolithic remains to early 19th-century ironmaking, and there were a couple of display cases where I could find no captions at all, but the objects are generally so splendid (and so splendidly arranged) it barely matters. Aberdare, as the 'capital' of Cwm Cynon, features strongly, but not exclusively: and what comes across most powerfully is the sense of community generated by the shared experience of work, and sometimes worklessness, of good and bad times, extending across the last two centuries of this part of south Wales. The museum, in fact, is an expression of that as well as a means of preserving and presenting it: it has a democratic soul and a campaigning will, and reminds me why I wanted to work in museums all those years ago.

Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays 	Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays
Cynon Valley Museum displays

Cynon Valley Museum displays


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