Fringe Box



Citizens Speak: Views on Guildford Museum

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 22.14.46Guildford Museum faces an uncertain future. Some councillors appear to believe that the best option is for it to move from Quarry Street and become part of a “visitor centre”, perhaps including more audio -visual and interactive displays and an art gallery. Certainly the current building has its limitations.

But what do Guildford citizens and visitors think? Dragon reporters went along to the museum to interview a snapshot selection of those who had just been into the museum on the Saturday of Heritage Weekend (September 12).

Ruchi Bansul

Ruchi Bansul from India

Ruchi Bansul, a visitor from India who said she had a general interest in history thought that overall the exhibition in the museum was good and that there was a very good selection of medieval artefacts. She thought that the idea of linking the museum to the castle grounds was a good one especially because the Quarry Street entrance had been hard to find. She had been to the castle earlier and was unaware that she was within yards of the museum. Ruchi was not in favour of the moving the museum as she thought it should remain close to the ancient site and get reflections of history from its location. She thought it could be developed into a visitor centre but not if this required a move. Asked if she thougfht the artefacts were important she said: “Yes, isn’t that what a museum is for? The objects give a direct connection with those ancient time.” She also suggested that there should be a model or plan of the town on display showing its various historic sites.

2 Citizens Museum Steve and Geraldine Woods-

Steve and Geraldine Woods from Worplesdon

Geraldine and Steve Woods thought the museum showed a really comprehensive collection of local interest. There was a lot of detailed display of unique objects important to Guildford’s history and they liked the display in small units. They both liked the idea of linking the museum to the castle as they felt they naturally fitted together and it would attract more visitors into the museum. [There are said to be 300,000 visitors to the castle and castle grounds each year but just 10,000 to the museum.] They felt it might be acceptable to move the museum if it could be kept within the town centre and a more modern building might be more able to cope with larger visitor numbers but it would lose some of its atmosphere. A visitor centre would be a good idea as it could provide a greater sense of cohesion and raise the profile of Guildford’s tourist attractions. The artefacts were very important. It was one thing to read about an object or see an photograph but it was no substitute for seeing the actual object which allows you to relate more directly to the past. They would have liked to have seen more exhibits of 20th century history including the town’s commercial history something about the theatres and schools and about the “cobbled” High Street.

Tricia McIntosh from The Mount

Tricia McIntosh from The Mount

Tricia McIntosh had found the museum hugely interesting covering, as it does, Guildford’s early history onwards. But the museum was a bit dated and more interactive displays would be good. Tricia had just returned from the Orkney and Shetland Isles where she had seen some “amazing” museums funded she thought by Heritage Lottery Funding and oil industry sponsors. Guildford she thought hugely understated its history. Linking the museum to the castle grounds would be a wonderful idea. The Quarry Street entrance was too far out of the way, with too few passing pedestrians. Moving the museum she thought was not a good idea as it is important for it to be in an historic building and she was not in favour a visitor centre as she thought it important to have a specific history facility; there were already art galleries such as Guildford House. The artefacts were very important because they brought everything to life and were a big part of the whole experience. More should be made of them especially so that local school children can understand our history. Tricia concluded: “I know the museum is at risk. We should ask what we can do to support it.”

4 Citizens Museum - M J Hanafin

M J Hanafin from Shalford

M J Hanafin said that she loved the museum it was one of her favourite haunts. She thought that creating a direct link to the castle grounds might be a good idea. It can be reached fairly easily by walking though the arch but the route needed better signage. As for moving the museum it would depend and what it would become and where it should be. Another idea could be to move it to Clandon House when/if it is refurbished but that would require travel from the town. Ms Hanafin was unsure about the advantage of development into a visitor centre incorporating audio-visual displays. She felt 50-50 on the question. But it was very important to her to see the artefacts, she wanted to see the real thing. Her final comment was :”GBC (Guildford Borough Council) is nuts not to give it more money: it is important for the history of the town.”

5 Citizens Museum - S Crabtree

S Crabtree from Bookham

S Crabtree rated the museum as excellent following his visit. He thought there had been a good range of articles and plenty of variety. He liked the slightly “Heath Robinson” displays but had almost missed the film of Guildford’s History and thought that the signage could be improved and more could be shown about Lewis Carroll. Mr Crabtree liked the idea of a direct link to the castle grounds being created, especially as Quarry Street does not have a high footfall. Moving the museum would be a shame, he thought, as its atmosphere would be lost and he preferred to have proper history museum than a visitor centre.  Seeing the artefacts was very important, they were fascinating. Only by seeing them directly could one get a feeling of what they were like and a true impression of their qualities. He suggested that incorporating a cafe into the museum would be popular and draw in more visitors.

6 Citizens Museum - Family Naylor

Family Naylor from Mortlake

Ben (on shoulders), Mark, Emily and Elodie Naylor were visiting Guildford from Mortlake. They said they had had a lovely visit to the museum. Ben had loved it. It was a pretty building and the interpretations were very good. The jigsaws and train tracks had produced an actual “Wow!” from Ben. The Naylors were not in favour of moving the museum although admitted that they had found it hard to find. But they were adamant that it should not be spoilt. If it was it would lose its atmosphere, they said. “The building itself captures some historic essence, even the creaking floorboards help.” But there was no reason they felt why Guildford could not have a museum and a visitor centre. As with all others questioned they felt that seeing the artefacts was very important, especially for young visitors and they also thought a cafe would be a good addition, together with family picnic areas in the castle grounds.


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