The Friends of Guildford Museum recently listed a set of ideas for taking Guildford Museum forward in leaner times. Ambitious plans for a new extension had to be shelved when the National Lottery Heritage Fund put all new applications on hold. In July I reported on some statements from the Council for a “scaled down design” somewhere else in the town. Now (in December 2020) with large cuts about to be announced it seems that there will be very little money for anything.
Although the Museum website talks about “ambitious plans over the next 5 years” , there is very little detail so the ideas from the Friends are the closest we have to even a proposed plan in the current circumstances.
This is what they say:
The museum is the perfect conduit for the story of Guildford’s resilience in our lifetimes as well as our fascinating history, woven with so many famous people and royalty. And the museum can also showcase what today’s Guildford wants to be known for, not just its shops, buffeted as they are by internet shopping, but our ability to be forward-thinking to bring us through difficult times with innovation and creativity.
The museum’s venerable buildings are adjacent to the Castle grounds that include the Keep. The council’s plan to connect them with an entrance and coffee shop by the Castle Grounds is on hold because the National Lottery has paused its funding grants. To renew this plan if the museum’s revival is halted by council budget cuts next year would be difficult.
Much could be done with our museum on a moderate budget. For example:
- More of the museum’s artefacts in storage could be displayed in rotation;
- The quarter of fascinating historic buildings, the 13th-century Undercroft, the Guildhall, the old buildings of the Royal Grammar School, the museum and the Castle Keep could be publicly linked and signposted;
- Similarly, the arts and crafts movement centred on Watts Gallery and Limnerslease should also be linked and signposted;
- There should be an information sign by the King’s Chamber in the Castle grounds to signpost the museum, its quirky listed buildings, and its collection;
- The Keep could be “dressed” at minor expense to bring its story to life;
- The museum should be connected to the Castle Grounds. If an expensive extension cannot be afforded at this time, there are other options
In short these ideas propose refreshing the displays simply by changing them, connecting related heritage sites around the town and borough and opening access to the museum from the Castle Grounds. For me this is the perfect vision. It is simple and provided fears for the museum are unfounded it is very achievable even in times of financial restraint