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Museum Review Is Considering Several Options Stresses Council

Museum signGuildford Borough Council (GBC) has issued a statement to stress that its museum review is considering different options for the museum’s future.

But the opposition leader at Millmead, Cllr Caroline Reeves said: “The waters have become very muddied and we are trying to make progress…”

The council statement follows one of similar style on the Electric Theatre review which countered fears and criticism that it is not truly open and that a preferred option had already been identified.

However, the decision to evict the Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS) from the museum has not changed: the notice to quit by the end of January, served on the society in July (2015), still stands.

Guildford Museum

Guildford Museum in Quarry Street.

According to the council statement, ideas that are being considered include a combined visitor centre and museum, a café, art collections and interactive access to exhibits.

It continues to say: “Further work by the group over the coming months will assess the suitability of the museum’s current location and other potential locations to best deliver these ambitions. The group aims to be ready to present the fully assessed options for the museum in March so that the public can have their say on proposals in the spring.

“The current location could be refreshed and updated with improved access from the Castle Grounds, or a new location could help address access issues and provide more space for exhibits. The group’s review will check ideas against value for money for residents to provide a balance between improvements and a more efficient visitor attraction.”

Over the last two months individuals and organisations who share an interest in Guildford’s heritage have been invited to present their ideas on the museum. The working group has reported that the feedback from those invited indicates that the museum needs more imaginative and interactive ways to tell the story of Guildford.

It is also thought that the museum should include: “A space that allows for digital technologies, modern displays and more opportunity for unique exhibitions will attract more visitors to the town and borough. It is hoped that the refreshed museum will become a social centre for residents and visitors to meet and enjoy exhibitions on repeat visits.”

But the controversial move to evict the Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS) seems to continue, although it is understood that the plan to remove their library by the end of November has slipped back.

The SAS library use by society members, local historians and members of the public.

The SAS library – its expected departure from Castle Arch will not now be complete by the end of November (2015).

The GBC statement says: “We are continuing to work with the Surrey Archaeological Society to ensure the current collections in the museum remain for the benefit of local people.

“The areas within the museum formerly used by the SAS will open up other interesting parts of Castle Arch House for the public to explore, such as the historic fireplace on the first floor. The additional space will also provide much needed and improved places of work for our heritage team as well as more storage for exhibits not on public display.”

Cllr Geoff Davis

Cllr Geoff Davis

Cllr Geoff Davis, (Con, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for economic development, heritage and tourism, said: “We want to broaden the museum’s appeal and make it accessible and interesting to all who visit. Meetings with the SAS, Guildford Heritage Forum, the Museum Development Service and other individuals linked with heritage tell us we could do so much more in our museum if changes are made.

“Our working group is about making change possible so that we do justice to Guildford’s historic story. Currently the museum interests some of us but we want it to be appealing to everyone. We are making good progress and we look forward to providing updates on museum options early 2016.”

SAS Surrey Archaeological society logoEmma Corke, speaking on behalf of the Surrey Archaeological Society, said: “We are glad to see that the working group has positive ideas for the future of the Guildford Museum.

“The plans for both the building and the displays sound exciting – we hope that they will illustrate Guildford’s place within the county, and indeed the country, and not be entirely parochial.

“The society has always sought to be an active part of a revitalised museum at Castle Arch. We have made constructive proposals for this to Guildford Borough Council but have so far heard nothing.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves.

Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), leader of the opposition and a member of the museum working group, said: “The GBC press release outlines exactly what the working group understood our task to be, we did not have closure in mind as our purpose.

“The waters have become very muddied and we are trying to make progress towards a new, better, more engaging museum that will appeal across a broad spectrum of residents and visitors. There is much work still to be done.”

Gavin Morgan

Gavin Morgan.

Gavin Morgan of the Guildford History Forum said: “I welcome the council’s report and support it.

“Over the next few months I hope we can get as many people as possible contributing their ideas about what sort of museum they want. There are two big questions.

“What services do we want from our museum and what should we do with the Castle Arch site? We will have some answers in March but I think it will be a while before we see big changes.

“So I think we need to find ways of supporting the museum team and making the most of what we currently have. We must also not forget the Surrey Archaeological Society. They gave us our museum and have much to contribute towards its future.

See other news stories on Guildford Museum here.

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3 Responses to Museum Review Is Considering Several Options Stresses Council

  1. Gordon Bridger Reply

    November 18, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I don’t understand what on earth is going on. The statement seems to represent another U-turn from the council. Of course the review should always have been open. We should not need a council statement to try and make us believe that it is.

    There appears to be something seriously wrong with the management of our Heritage Services and why does the SAS, who have done so much to preserve our and Surrey history, have to leave?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    November 19, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Here’s some feedback for the museum working group:

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Leave the museum alone, and leave the SAS in their home.

    I’ve never heard any comment to the effect that either the museum or SAS are unfit for their purpose. The trustees and the society know what they are doing. Unqualified councillors do not.

    Let’s be clear, this process is being run by a chartered surveyor, more used to properties deals, who only seems to understand the value of real estate, and doesn’t give a hoot about our heritage.

    I would make the same comments re. the Electric Theatre.

    • Keith Reeves Reply

      November 20, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      The jibe aimed at Cllr Davis strikes me as unnecessary, but is perhaps somewhat predictable.

      Are we to suppose that our elected representatives in parliament or councils can only act on matters relating to those in which they are ‘qualified’? That would rule out the majority of government ministers past and present for starters.

      I’ve always understood that our MPs and councillors can seek advice from civil and public servants.

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