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Museum Project Update April 2018

Press Release

Guildford Borough Council has issued an update on the museum project. There is a press statement and two reports.

  1. Press Statement - Click Here
  2. Report to Executive Advisory Board– summarises where the project is and where it is going
  3. 'Your Stories,Your Museum' Interpretation Plan & Evaluation

Report to the EAB

The Executive Report outlines what has been happening and what is happening next. There have been two activities:

  1. Assessment by ZMMA architects on where to extend – Castle Cliff Gardens was considered but the rear of the museum is the preferred option
  2. What to put on display – “Your Stories, Your Museum”

 

Further action

  • The aim is to complete the feasibility study and business case by December 2018 to enable a decision to be made to proceed to the final design and delivery stage.
  • Further work during 2018/19 will concentrate on developing the content, activities and interpretation for the museum with further detailed work on the buildings and fundraising activities.
  • Completion in about 2021

 Vision for the museum

The report states "The evolving vision for the new museum, supported by the Museum Working Group, is to promote and celebrate Guildford’s history of creativity and innovation.  This would be underpinned by exhibitions (both “permanent” and “temporary”) celebrating local individuals and their successes"

There was some concern at the presentation that this is too narrow. As the Friends of Guildford Museum have said "This could mean that important parts of our history would be downplayed. Creativity and innovation are important but these should not dominate teh new displays".

Your Stories, Your Museum

Deciding how to revamp an entire museum is an incredibly complex task that most museum curators do perhaps once in their entire career if at all. There are so many options that could be chosen that a decision has to be made to go down one particular route

The museum plans to take a thematic approach and tell the story of Guildford through people associated with it. I can imagine that this would be popular with visitors. 15 themes are proposed that will form the backbone of the museum. They are being called “threads” and it seems to the story of the town will be told by following these threads and illustrating them through the lives of people associated with the town.

There are risks associated with this approach which the report is well aware of and highlights

  • Page 9 says “When researching potential stories, it is important that this ‘peopled’ approach does not become a ‘Guildford Hall of Fame’”
  • There is also a risk that there are not the objects to back up these “people stories” Page 12 says “At this stage, the Museum team simply needs to be confident that the content and collections exist to support the narrative they wish to present.”

 

I am pleased that the report recognises the need for a flexible space. Under the section “Future Proofing the Displays” it says  “The new display must work for the collection in the long-term, and the key to this will be the specification and flexibility of the space”.

The  report also says that  “The capital project will bring the Museum and Castle together for the first time.”. However, the ideas proposed focused on displays within the museum about the castle rather than developing the way the castle itself is presented.

 

I have a few comments:

  1. Good project management practice is to continually review your objectives. I would like to encourage the project to test the ideas they have for the displays against the objectives to ensure they will be achieved.
  2. I would also like the museum project to look beyond Castle Arch. The Borough has lots of heritage sites within its care and there are many other heritage attractions in the town. Tourists will see them all as “Guildford Heritage” and we need to ensure the town has a coordinated approach.
  3. I am interested to know how the museum will find resources to create the displays In the last 3 years most exhibitions have been brought in and are not related to the town. Others have involved just getting objects out of display or have relied on community groups. How will the staff carry out the research needed for the ideas proposed in this report?