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Future of Guildford’s Most Important Historic Artefacts In Doubt

Guildford Museum 02Guildford Museum might soon be left without the majority of its most important exhibits if the Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS), recently given notice to quit its 100-year-old home at Castle Arch by Guildford Borough Council (GBC), decide against a loan arrangement at a meeting next week.

Despite a previous statement by Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity) that he was: “…in discussions with SAS for them to leave their exhibits in the museum, following their office move.” It has emerged that any agreement with the society is far from certain, especially because of the ill feeling the unexpected notice to quit has caused.

The council also intends to start charging the society for storage of historic artefacts at the Woking Road depot where most of the museum’s collection is kept.

Emma Corke, spokesperson for the SAS said: “The trustees will be meeting next Friday to discuss the possibility of loaning artefacts to Guildford Museum.

“It is a regular meeting for us, but a decision on any loan will be one of the important items on the agenda, along with others concerning our eviction from Castle Arch.

“So far the council have not made it clear just what they want us to lend them, nor on what terms.

“While, of course, we feel that the people of Guildford and visitors should be able to see these important parts of their history, we feel that it would not be entirely fair for the council to borrow all our best artefacts free of charge while at the same time expecting us to pay for storage for everything that they don’t fancy cherry-picking.

“Obviously I don’t know what the decision of the trustees will be.”

Approximately half of the museum's exhibits, including the majority of the most important historically, are said to belong to the Surrey Archaeological Society.

Approximately half of the museum’s exhibits, including the majority of the most important, are said to belong to the Surrey Archaeological Society.

Meanwhile the Friends of Guildford have broken their silence on the issue by publishing a statement on their website critical of the council’s handling of the affair saying that they are concerned that the council has “badly handled the relationship with the Surrey Archaeological Society.” They call for a frank discussion between the involved parties.

The Friends of Guildford Museum statement, originally sent to their members on August 17, reads: “Many of you will be aware that the borough council is reconsidering the position of Guildford Museum at Castle Arch and a working group has been established for this purpose.

“The key aim of the working group is to look at a new and improved museum and visitor experience. We understand that it is scheduled to report to the council in November 2015.

“We are delighted that the newly elected council is moving quickly to decide on a future course of action. The museum is a vital component of Guildford’s heritage and there is significant scope to enlarge and improve its contribution to the town’s cultural life and attractions. This is something we have tried to encourage and support over the years.

“We consider that the working group should keep all options open. They should seek information and opinions at an early stage from those who have a thorough understanding of the issues, including the Friends of Guildford Museum.

“We are seriously concerned that the council has badly handled the relationship with the Surrey Archaeological Society. This is a matter of special significance, as many items of importance in the museum’s collections belong to the society, not to the borough council.

“We are aware of the issues that have been outstanding for some years between the council and the society and we agree that these need to be resolved. We feel that a lot could be achieved by a frank discussion between the respective officers for the benefit of both organisations.

“The ill-considered notice terminating the lease should be set aside to allow the long term objective of maximising use of Guildford’s heritage culture to be experienced by the local community and visitors.

“The Museum Review Group have invited us to contribute our views at one of their meetings.”

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One Response to Future of Guildford’s Most Important Historic Artefacts In Doubt

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    September 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    We’ll have our Samian ware bowl back if people are going to start arguing who pays for loans and storage of historic artefacts – it deserves to be in the Burpham community – after all that’s where it was found.

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