The recent announcement that the AMS Museum will be changing its name to The Museum of Military Medicine has generated a lot of comment on social media, with many questions being asked about the reasons for it and the possibility that the museum will be relocating from Keogh Barracks to Cardiff.
The Museum of Military Medicine is a project being undertaken by the Army Medical Services Museum Trust, which recognises that in order to build a sustainable future for its collections it needs to look beyond its current regimental museum set-up ‘behind the wire’ and build an outward facing, more inclusive, cultural enterprise.
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 facility will also better preserve the museum’s 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 naught.The selection process required candidate cities to address the expected needs of access, educational partnerships and cultural appeal. 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.
The Board believes that the Cardiff site offers the best opportunity to rebrand the Army Medical Services Museum as a fit-for-purpose modern museum, designed to tell the stories of the medics, nurses, dentists and vets who, over the past two centuries, have contributed so much to medical science and to the advancement of healthcare in general, and to tell that story to the widest possible audience.