Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Plans are submitted for £6.5m Museum of Somerset

AMBITIOUS plans to deliver a new £6.5 million Museum of Somerset have been submitted for planning permission.
The plans set out in detail how the vision for a restored Taunton Castle and 21st century museum will be realised.
The aim is to create an exciting new visitor attraction which tells the story of Somerset from prehistoric times right up to the present day.
Gallery spaces will be fitted out using the latest exhibition design techniques to display the museum’s internationally important collections, setting a new standard in the South West.
People will be able to access and learn about these in a variety of ways, such as through interactive displays.
The new museum will offer much-improved services for visitors, including a cafe, extended opening times, and a large temporary gallery capable of staging national touring exhibitions.
It is hoped that visitor numbers will double to more than 60,000 annually.
Plans also allow for much more of the castle itself to be opened to the public, parts of which date back to the 12th century.
There will be a new welcome centre in the castle courtyard and a north entrance leading to Goodland Gardens.
There will also be vastly-improved access for people with disabilities.
Somerset County Council is now working on submitting detailed information to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) about what the Museum of Somerset will deliver.
Earlier this year, the HLF announced £4.8 million had been set aside from its budget for the project, which will cost £6.5 million overall.
A public fund-raising campaign was launched recently to raise £250,000 of the remaining £1.7 million.
Grants and contributions from the project’s stakeholders, including Somerset County Council, have also been secured towards the total.
Assuming the planning application and proposals to the HLF are successful, building works are programmed to start in September of next year with an expected opening in the summer of 2010.
This would require the closure of the County Museum by March 31 to carry out the huge task of carefully dismantling, packing, and storing every single object.
An open day is being held at the County Museum on Sunday, November 18 to give visitors a last chance to see behind the scenes of Taunton Castle before the development works start.
Project leader Tom Mayberry said: “We are pleased to have reached this important milestone in our efforts to create the Museum of Somerset
“We have conducted a lot of work with the public to find out what they want from their museum and are confident these plans will deliver their aspirations.”
County council community services portfolio holder, Councillor Justin Robinson, said: “The council is committed to looking after Somerset’s cultural heritage and the new facility will provide a fitting home for the history of this county, which is sure to be enjoyed and appreciated for many generations to come.”
  • Our images show how the Museum of Somerset might look inside: Top - ‘Youth Gallery’ gives a glimpse of how the county of Somerset developed from the 8th to 17th centuries. Middle – ‘Mezzanine’ shows how the Great Hall may look. Bottom -the ‘Bloody Assizes’ image shows how this gruesome chapter in Taunton Castle’s history might be brought to life. Images submitted.

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