|Director||Gareth Griffiths (former)|
The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (grid reference ) was a museum in Bristol, United Kingdom exploring the history of the British Empire and the effect of British colonial rule on the rest of the world. The museum opened in 2002 and entered voluntary liquidation in 2013.
The museum opened in 2002 in Bristol's historic old railway station, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, following renovation and conversion costing £8 million. It was completed in 1840 and includes the passenger shed and the adjoining former engine and carriage shed. It is over 220 ft long (67 m) with timber and iron roof spans of 72 ft (22 m), this Grade I listed building has been nominated as part of a World Heritage Site.
The museum had a flourishing publications department, producing books on aspects of colonial life such as the history of the Northern Rhodesia Police, and a register of titles of the regiments of the Honourable East India Company and East Indian Armies. The museum also held the collection of artefacts of the Commonwealth Institute; extensive photograph stills, paper, film and oral history archives, and a costume collection. These are now in the care of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives (apart from loans which were returned to their owners).
Unlike many national museums in Britain, the BECM was not publicly funded, but owned and operated by a charitable trust; consequently an admission charge was in place.
The museum's Breaking the Chains exhibition, funded by a £1m Heritage Lottery grant to mark the 200-year anniversary abolition of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade by the Slave Trade Act 1807, was short-listed for the Art Fund Prize.
On 23 November 2007 the museum announced it would be moving its core operations to London in 2008. The museum closed to the public in the autumn of 2008 and for school visits at the end of March 2009.
On 16 March 2011, the Museums Association announced that the Director of the museum, Gareth Griffiths, had been dismissed pending a police investigation into the unauthorised disposal of museum objects.
On 28 March 2012, the museum announced that the planned move to London had been cancelled and that it would instead give its collection to the City of Bristol to display at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery at a future date. The Old Station which had previously housed the museum was also given to the city, and may be used for future Network Rail services to London.
In a letter dated 22 May 2013, the museum wrote to one of the lenders of items, "Following a further extensive search for the items, I can now confirm that, unfortunately, we have only been able to locate one of the ten [items]... It is a matter of great regret that the Museum cannot locate the remaining items and I apologise on behalf of the Museum's trustees for this. I also confirm that the Museum has now completed the transfer of the artefacts it held to the British Empire & Commonwealth Trust (held by Bristol City Council) and the Museum has now moved out of its premises and it is proposed that the company which operates the Museum will be wound down in the near future, with an intention to enter a Members Voluntary Liquidation in July 2013."
On 24 October 2013, The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum and The Empire Museum Ltd were placed into "members' voluntary liquidation"; two employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bristol, were appointed Joint Liquidators.
The following is a partial list.
After the closure of the museum the collections were given to Bristol City Council to care for, with the objects under the care of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and the archive collections (including papers, books, photographic, film and sound) under the care of Bristol Archives. Since 2014 Bristol Archives have worked to catalogue some of the photographic and film collections, digitise them and make them available for public use.
Now the 39 million stitch tapestry, which was 23 years in the making.
Pow Wow also features the stunning New World Tapestry. Created over 25 years in England's West Country and larger than the Bayeaux Tapestry, it presents a light-hearted history of the colonial period as well as providing a fascinating record of the people and plants that made possible Britain's first empire in America.