Archive for the ‘Museum [Insider]’ Category

Plymtouh History Centre aims high

In Museum [Insider], Museums on February 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Councillors in Plymouth believe that by investing in a new history-themed visitor attraction, they will attract new visitors and business to the city.

The council intends for Plymouth History Centre (name to be confirmed) to bring to life the city’s rich history and tell the stories of some of their legends and heroes such as Scott, Darwin and Drake.

They claim the ‘not to be missed’ attraction will open by January 2018 and will cost in the region of £21 million. And more than just historical storytelling, they hope the new initiative will attract more visitors, create local jobs and boost the city’s economy.

We see a lot of projects coming along in the museum and heritage sector with high ambitions. I was recently working on a project which had the aim of being ‘the best museum in the world’. But what are these claims worth? Is it just hot air to get funders to agree to give you a load of cash so you can build it? Perhaps I’m battle hardened by working on these projects, but I wonder if they really have the power to make good their ambitions and create something truly different and novel in a sector already saturated with ‘new’ projects.

I truly hope the people at Plymouth prove me wrong and this is one of the greatest museums we see built in the next few years. Good luck to them!


New home for the postal museum

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

For a long time I’ve had a soft spot for the British Postal Museum and Archive, not because of any philatelic interest – I gave up stamp collecting many years ago – but rather because they’ve had a rough ride in the last few years. After having their collection dispersed around the country in a wide range of collection stores they were promised, a few years back, a new home in Swindon, right next door to the National Trust HQ, Heelis.

But that plan got scuppered and they were left to return to their various archives and libraries with leaky rooves and ageing facilities.

Well, it turns out that they now have another plan for a new home – and this one looks like it will work.

Better still, it’s not in Swindon but in the centre of London – not that there’s anything wrong with Swindon, of course. An old Post Office building near the Mount Pleasant sorting office is to be reconditioned, allowing them to bring their collections together into one place and stage exhibitions and displays.

I reckon the museum-going public are going to love it. There’s more than just stamps in the collection; it’s the entire history of the postal services in the UK over the last 400 years – pillar boxes, vehicles, design work, uniforms, toys etc.

There’s an article about the plans for the new museum, which is set to open in 2016, on Museum [Insider] now.

Lots happening in 2012

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on January 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Economic forecasts might not look great, but there are some things in the heritage sector to be positive about when it comes to thinking about the short-term future.

The UK museum building sector is still doing pretty well, despite the economic downturn – this is mostly due to the funds for new museums which are to be completed in 2012 having been agreed, commited and often paid up, well before the recession started.

I have a new article on Museum [Insider] today about the various projects that are set to open to the public this year. The massive Titanic Signature Building in Belfast will open in March and after that there’ll be opening parties in Preston, Chichester, Porthmeor, Birmingham and London amongst others. (I really do hope you’ve remembered to put me on the guest list – my new year’s resolution for 2012 is not to eat standing up, but I make an exception for canapes.)

And there are more celebrations set to come when more and more new museums open in the coming years. We’re presently putting the research together for a third e-book about the future of the museum and heritage sector in the UK and Ireland and it’s astonishing how many projects we’ve managed to include in it. If you’re working on a project set to open between now and 2019 and would like to get a write up in the book, then just email me:





The future of libraries

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on November 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm

The current trend for reducing council spending on arts and heritage has spread beyond museums and into the to the world of libraries. Unlike museums, local authorities in the UK have a statutory obligation to the public to provide a library service – just as they do housing, education and refuse collection.

But that’s not stopped some councils in England thinking about alternative ways of delivering library services to the public. I’ve written an article about two councils in London  (Wandsworth and Croydon) who are in the process of contracting out their entire library service to an external provider.

It can’t be much fun trying to balance the books of a local authority at the moment and it’s interesting to see how some councils are coming up with creative ways of funding their core services. But are there also concerns about how this will go down with the public?

Read the article on Museum [Insider] to find out.

Preserving Pottery in Stoke

In Museum [Insider], new content on June 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

There’s an interesting new project taking place at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent.

Facing financial difficulties in a tough economic climate as a working factory making specialist goods, the pottery has ended up entering into a deal with the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, a major charity which cares for the built heritage of the nation. In a bold economic move they have secured funding which has enabled them (or their subsidary at least) to purchase the site of the Pottery.

Over the next few years they will refurbish the parts of the site that are in need of attention, meanwhile leasing part of the factory back to the pottery. Some of the vacant buildings will become a new visitor centre, while others will house commercial operations.

This all means that the factory gets to stay open; the workers get to keep their jobs; new jobs get created; the buildings are preserved and the whole area gets an economic boost. Oh, and we get a new museum/visitor centre as well!

Clever, eh? Win win for everyone. So in, fact it’s more than preserving pottery – it’s promoting growth. There’s an article all about it on Museum [Insider] now, of course.

There are a few interesting project funding models like this around in the heritage sector at the moment. I’m sure there’ll be an article out about that before too long. Watch this space …..

A Castle Fit for a King (once again)

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on June 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

King John’s Castle in Limerick is preparing to start work on a major redevelopment project.  Built by the nasty King John of England almost 800 years ago, the castle has not been performing quite as well as it could do as a visitor attraction and heritage centre. So Shannon Development – a regional developement agency in south-west Ireland – has received 5.7 million Euro in funding to work on the site, improving the visitor offer and facilities, including reworking the interpretation of the site.

I spoke with the project manager at the castle and wrote the piece up for an article on Museum [Insider]. The site is planned to stay open during the redevelopment work, which is expected to be complete by summer 2012.


Museum [Insider] Looking Ahead: Handbook of Future Museum and Heritage Projects 2012 to 2017

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on May 25, 2011 at 11:20 am

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my new book with Heritage Solution Ltd, the publishers of the online magazine Museum [Insider].

It’s got a snappy title –

Museum [Insider] Looking Ahead: Handbook of Future Museum and Heritage Projects 2012 to 2017 is a look at over 100 projects taking place in the museum, gallery and heritage sector over the next five years. Each entry has a write up detailing what the project entails and what contracts are likely to be offered in the future, along with project data and the all important names and contact details of the key people to speak to.

There are also five introductory articles detailing where I think the museum sector is right now in terms of private business. It’s true that times are tough for the heritage sector right now – jobs are being cut, as are annual budgets. But this book lists the staggering £1.8 billion worth of work that’s out there and gives you the knowhow to go about securing some of it for yourself. It’s the word from inside the museums – the Museum [Insider].

As a market intelligence publication about a specialised industry this isn’t perhaps a book that you’ll buy for the bedside table, but if you’re interested in obtaining a copy, then take a look at the M[I] website.

In the meantime, I want to say a big thank you to the lovely people at Museum [Insider] for publishing a second title with me. Cheers, guys.

Completing Kettle’s Yard

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on May 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm

The ‘to do’ list of museums I want to visit has been growing over time, but I’ve just put a new one at the top of the list.

Over the last couple of years I’ve written about dozens of museums and galleries around the country which I’ve not visited in person. If I’m writing an article about a new museum being planned in Scotland there’s actually little point in me going up there to see a building site – in fact it’s much more beneficial to speak with people working on the project on the phone. There are loads of new museums opening this year, but one I really want to go see when it’s done (next year) is Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.

This charming little property was once home to Jim Ede, a veteran of the art world who would, at one time, welcome students from the local University into his home for a cup of tea and the chance to look at his collection.

The house is now a public building, and has been operating at maximum capacity for some time. After various physical interventions on the site the museum has now realised that it cannot continue to operate efficiently in its present form, so are planning to make some alterations and ‘complete’ the site –  at a cost of £5 million.

I’ll definitely be there next autumn to see what’s happened.

Online gallery for Bradford

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 25, 2011 at 10:39 am

It’s only a few years since the National Museum for Film, Photography and Television in Bradford was rebranded as the National Media Museum. They realised that the ‘new’ media were expanding so rapdily that they couldn’t just keep on adding more and elements on to the end of the name – the ‘National Museum of Film, Photography, Television, Cinematography, Print Journalism, the Internet, Social Media and Text Messages’ would just be too unwieldy.

And as a result of the new name the museum has decided to create a new suite of galleries devoted solely to the story of the Internet – it’s inception and development along with the impact it has had on our lives. I suppose this wouldn’t really call for a traditional museum display with objects in boxes – what objects would they use that tell the story well anyway?! In fact, it’s going to be much more interactive – indeed the museum wants the new displays to blur the boundary between museum content and online experience.

We’ll wait and see what they come up with – I’m sure it will be something clever. In the meantime there’s an article all about it live on Museum [Insider] now.

I’ve fallen in love with a building

In Museum [Insider], Museums, new content on April 4, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I think I might have fallen in love with a building I’ve never even visited. It’s the home of the novelist Sir Walter Scott in the Scottish Borders – Abbotsford House.

Scott designed and built this place and worked here for much of his life. It’s undergoing a massive overhaul over the next two years, to restore parts of the historic structure and to build a new visitor reception centre nearby. I was researching it recently for an article on Museum [Insider] and ended up falling for the place.

Take a look at their website and you’ll see what I mean – tall towers with turrets, a cutesy walled garden and the most amazing study a writer could ever wish to work in.

And best of all is the news that when the upgrade to the building is complete in 2013 they will have turned some of the former private rooms into five-star self-catering accomodation, so you can go and stay there. Or, more precisely, I can go and stay there.

I’m booking as soon as they announce prices! Anyone want to come with me?