A SECRET strategy has been adopted to drop the word "Wales" from the titles of our national museums, we can reveal today.
Last night the plan was confirmed by the quango National Museums and Galleries of Wales after the Western Mail was tipped off by a disgruntled member of staff. The body argues the change is a consequence of increased national self-confidence.
Today's disclosure follows a series of other name changes which have involved excluding the terms "Wales" or "Welsh". Earlier this week we revealed the Assembly Government's intention to drop the brand names "Welsh Development Agency" and "Wales Tourist Board" when the organisations are "merged" with it next April.
Cardiff International Airport ditched Wales from its title several years ago.
Asked about the decision to drop the WDA brand name, David Pritchard, who is the head of the Assembly Government's economic development and transport division, said that in future the brand they hoped to promote was Wales.
Yesterday The Western Mail received a fax from an anonymous museum employee stating, "It may interest you to know that an Assembly Sponsored Public Body, namely the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, is about to rebrand itself, dropping 'Wales' and 'Welsh' from all its branches. For example, the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans is to become the National History Museum.
"Staff are deeply disturbed - what will the people of Wales feel?"
On Monday, the National Waterfront Museum will be opened in Swansea, without a reference to "Wales" or "Welsh" in its title.
Robyn Gwyn, director of communications at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, explained the new approach, "We have been looking at the way we brand and promote our museums very carefully in recent months, and had been preparing to go public in November.
"Over the summer we have been testing ideas with focus groups involving visitors and 41 members of staff. The response we have had is very positive.
"Overall we hope to have a clearer identity for the seven museums that we run. In Welsh, the family of institutions will be known as Amgueddfa Cymru and in English, National Museums Wales.
"People who are not Welsh- speakers are becoming increasingly familiar with Cymru as the name of the country and we would encourage people to use it.
"In terms of the individual museums, we believe there is no longer any need to have 'Wales' or 'Welsh' in the title. We are conscious of the fact that 30% of the people in Wales are not Welsh and we believe it is more appropriate that the term 'National' should be used.
"In recent years, too, we believe people have become much more self-confident about Wales as a nation, and it now seems appropriate to rebrand as the National Wool Museum and the National Slate Museum. Big Pit will keep its very strong name, but it will also be the National Coal Museum.
"Over the next few years we intend to broaden St Fagans into a proper National History Museum. At present there is a big chronological leap between the Celtic village and the buildings of the last 300 years. We intend to provide people with a proper overview of Welsh history, including the Middle Ages.
"The predominant colour in our rebranding exercise will be red, like the national rugby team."
Mr Gwyn said the drive for the changes had come from within the quango, although discussions had taken place with the Assembly Government.
Marketing consultants had been used, although the cost had been modest, at about £8,000 per museum.
Plaid Cymru's Shadow Culture Minister, Owen John Thomas, said, "I'm quite relaxed about this. [Former Plaid MP and AM] Cynog Dafis has argued the case for something of this kind for quite a while. If you go to England, you don't get the National Gallery of England, you just get the National Gallery. It's a bit like the difference between the Welsh Rugby Union and the Rugby Football Union.
"I think it makes sense to turn St Fagans into a proper National History Museum. At the moment it doesn't tell the full story of Wales. Anyone visiting it from abroad would get the impression that Wales was predominantly a rural country. In fact, as the late Dr Phil Williams pointed out, more people have been employed off the land than on the land since the 1831 Census, making Wales the first industrial nation of the world.
"If you look at the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when 'Wales' and 'Welsh' were included in the name of newly established bodies like the University of Wales, the Welsh Rugby Union and the Football Association of Wales, there was a conscious attempt to promote Welshness at a time when we had been short of national institutions. I think we're now in a new phase with more national self-confidence."