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Is it time for Ipswich Museum to shut its doors and move to a new site?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 26 January 2017

Is it time to rethink Ipswich Museum's future?

Is it time to rethink Ipswich Museum's future?

Archant

Last year’s failure by Ipswich Museum to obtain the National Lottery funding it was seeking for a major upgrade was a shattering loss for the town.

Cake & Revolution has a won a competition to take over Ipswich Museum for a nightCake & Revolution has a won a competition to take over Ipswich Museum for a night

While the council which owns it says it remains committed to the building I find myself wondering whether the time has come for a radical re-think.

I am rather torn on this. The museum is in a magnificent purpose-built Victorian building which is worth a visit in its own right.

But it’s in totally the wrong place for what it is, and I am seriously wondering whether it would be better to convert this building into attractive flats and to create a new Museum of Ipswich in a better location.

Maybe it would be worth linking it to the new “Hold” heritage centre being created on the university campus near the Waterfront.

The plans to revive the museum put to the Heritage Lottery Fund were certainly ambitious, looking to attract more visitors by installing an indoor street and creating a cafe area.

But the HLF recognised the central weakness in the proposal – that the museum is never going to attract the casual visitors it was looking for, while stuck in the middle of residential area half a mile away from the main town centre and the best part of a mile from the university.

Because the simple fact is that whatever is done to the museum it is never going to be a major tourist attraction that people travel from 50 to 100 miles away to spend all day at – it isn’t going to rival Duxford, Ickworth House or even the Museum of East Anglian Life at Stowmarket in the heritage stakes.

The borough needs to look at municipal museums in places like Canterbury or Peterborough which are based right in their city centres. Their cafes attract regular customers as well as visitors – and those who pop in for a coffee may stop off to look at a gallery or two as well.

Create a new museum at the Waterfront or in some of the under-used rooms in the Town Hall and Ipswich’s heritage might get a much wider audience.

And I know this might sound like heresy but in the 21st century what purpose does the Victorian natural history gallery really serve?

It tells us far less about wildlife than a visit to a zoo or a natural history television programme – and I know many people are put off by seeing loads of stuffed dead animals these days.

I am playing devil’s advocate here to some extent and having a Victorian Museum in a Victorian building has its merits – but if we really want to show off the town’s heritage is this the best way?

Tory MPs stray far from home

The Conservatives feel that they can score a rare (for a government) by-election victory in the Cumbrian seat of Copeland by taking it off Labour which has held the seat for decades. Opinion polls suggest they might be right.

But why on earth are Tory MPs from this area, who will be unknown to all but Cumbrian political geeks, traipsing off to the other side of the country to campaign when you’d have thought there were things for them to do in their own constituencies?

Is there really anyone in Whitehaven or Ravenglass who was going to vote Labour whose mind was changed when Therese Coffey or Will Quince turned up on their doorstep?

I know that during the by-election campaign in Ipswich in 2001 the long list of MPs from across the country that no one had ever heard of heading to town made their visits totally meaningless.

For all I know David Cameron (who had been elected to the House of Commons six months earlier) may have been here – but the overkill by all the parties would have made the whole visit pointless.

21 comments

  • Is Geater having a laugh? The Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket receives 33k visitors a year. Even with a poor attitude from IBC, Ipswich Museum still received 2k more visitors. A bad move to the waterfront. Don't compare a city with a large waterfront area to the tiny waterfront of Ipswich. Entrance numbers to the museum won't increase based on a new location. The waterfront is out of the way and not easily accessible. I will tell you what would be awesome... Cineworld to fold. Move the museum there. Close to the railway station and where National Express stops. Problem solved. Then covert the current museum site not to housing but an art gallery.

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    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Saturday, January 28, 2017

  • I have to agree with geater - as much as it hurts me. I actually visited the Museum last year when doing the Pig Trail with small child in tow. Apart from the woolly mammoth and the colouring in area, he really wasn't interested in any of the other bits. Not that I can blame him as 50% wasn't about Ipswich but just "normal" history. I think we'd walked round in 20 minutes and out. And although the Waterfront is the be all and end all, I do think it would fit in with the University as students can then volunteer to help out and bring some vibrancy and technology to it. Like the historic vessels idea, after all why is Ipswich where it is - the port. Not sure bringing the Transport Museum into it would be a good idea as that is run independent of IBC and should be used as an example of what to do rather than having political interference :) By all means have them in the same vicinity but separate please!

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    portmanroadmonkey

    Friday, January 27, 2017

  • Did it fail funding owing to the lack of visitors each year I wonder. It is rather strange to have a town museum that is actually some way from town on a road which is hardly a tourist route. The other problem is the amount of heritage centres that there seems to be all close by but independent of themselves and the museum. It's needs to be more central to be noticed. If there was the room and the consensus, Christchurch Mansion for example.

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    Chris D

    Friday, January 27, 2017

  • Parking at the waterfront is easy. Just park on Duke St Wykes Bishop St near Tesco and ignore any tickets you get, and continue parking there anyway. It's what the dodgy crumpled up BMWs do near to that "garage" that seems to operate until 3am.

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    Hanzi_Pollock

    Friday, January 27, 2017

  • I have to say I am disappointed by all the move the museum to the water front, and if the building is wrong ,why do we not get ambitious and ask for a new purpose built record office and museum on the charles street site like Norwich and have some of the HLF money that they and Cambridge seem to always get . After all it is near the bus station ,and should encourage people not to use their cars. Also I thought the aim was to shift emphasis north south for town centre, not all south. Finally it is not likely to be flooded away from the river. there.

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    Bob Flood

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Interesting to note that the present location is actually nearer to the town centre than it would be if it was moved to the waterfront. Crown Street car park is in easy walking distance and parking down at the waterfront is already very difficult. If we want to celebrate all that was great about Ipswich in the past, how about relocating the museum to Portman Road could see more people visiting there than at the moment.

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    Scuzzer

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Maybe relocate the transport museum as well? Or combine the two

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    cripster

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • In agreement with most of the other commentators on this. I rarely agree with Mr Geater's views but this one he is spot on. The museum is a valuable treasure trove of local history but is capable of doing so much more if it was in a better location. Considering that for over 1000 years the economy of the town was dependent on maritime trading it does seem sensible to consider one of the empty areas around the docks (sorry Waterfront). The building in High Street must of course survive as it is a Victorian architectural gem but the museum is the collection within it not the building itself so a better location would drum up more interest and visitor numbers.

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    Steve Blake

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Well, it is interesting that most on this, albeit small sample, see merit in moving the museum. With this in mind and no doubt a re-bid is being prepared in the background- we must make our voices heard that alternative options must be considered! The last time £20m+ of money was spent in Ipswich without our views resulted in Travel Ipswich- lets actually work together on something we all agree on for a change to push for this!

    Report this comment

    IpswichBristol

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • I'm glad such a proposal has been put forward. I've been in Ipswich for 2 years and haven't managed to visit visit the museum . It's definitely in the wrong place - too far from the town centre and Waterfront. I think it will die a slow death in its present location and not receiving a substantial grant may, in the long run, be a blessing in disguise. Another vote for a Waterfront located museum, although knowing our local authority, the process of relocation will probably take an eternity.

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    Kodak

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Hate the place. It gave me the creeps as a child and an adult..

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    Paul Wauly

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • I'm no fan of Geater, bit I am fair minded, so I think he's right on this! High St was built for Victorian foot traffic, lovely as it is, it's unsuitable for todays visitors. County Hall? Nice idea.

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    Mike Derruki

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • It was very poorly attended when I was a boy so it's probably worse now. It is in a very awkward place, but isn't that due to the habit of putting museums next to art schools? I mean one of the definitions of a 'Muse' is as an inspiration to artists. A fine building but no longer useful as a museum. It would probably better be located somewhere else and and the building turned into residential accommodation.

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    Gobby

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Ipsbristol..just looked at the bristol m shed online that's just perfect for what's needed in The waterfront, a great idea .

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    deeber

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • I agree Brian about the waterfront and also agree with others that the waterfront does lack that one main visitor attraction ,historic vessels great idea .

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    Macke

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Buy back County Hall, St Helen's Street and move to there. I am sure the current owner would accept a greatly reduced price as it is in such a state and he would be glad to get rid of it. The Waterfront will not be such an attraction when the Orwell Crossing is built as the Marina will be devoid of any yachts. Yachts will have to pay to have the bridge opened and, apart from that, the view from the Waterfront is going to be awful.

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    Brian Ball

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • I think this is a great idea, and a really important debate. The Museum is indeed in a fine Victorian building but its location will mean it always has an inherent weakness. There is also only a relatively finite audience for the Natural History bias and it does not appeal to a wider market which Ipswich desperately needs. The Waterfront is crying out for a visitor attraction and this would be idea, especially if a re-think on the content was realised to incorporate the impressive industrial and maritime history Ipswich has. Would be no reason for the Natural History aspects to not be included. As Deeber says, it historic vessels could be included it really could be something quite unique, especially with the leisure trips offered by the Barges and on the edge of the working port. I would really recommend having a look at the M Shed in Bristol- this would be perfect for Ipswich in a very similar location. Ipswich has such a rich history and we should celebrate it in a much better way- and it would also help improve the Ipswich of today. IBC and the Museum should be recognised for the ambition they had with the bid, but I think that sort of money could be better spent on something much more beneficial to the town.

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    IpswichBristol

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • The vision for the museum was ambitious, impressive and would have made it a destination in itself. Scandal that this worthwhile project didn't receive funding - too much money diverted into the Olympics, achieving medals in so-called sports that most of us hadn't even heard of. And as for converting the museum into flats, sure, that'd be as successful as the project to convert the St Helen's Court (!)

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    Usually Optimistic

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Interesting idea. I totally agree that the current museum is in an odd location and a bit out of the way. Shame that the lottery funding bid has failed, but I can see the thinking. If the Crown car park was redeveloped as a pleasant link area (building, landscaped walkway or green space?) to connect the town centre and the museum, then it could probably stay where it was. As it is, the museum is too disconnected. The waterfront has lots of available space (undeveloped St Peters Dock site, empty plots on Orwell Quay) or the planned "Hold" heritage area as suggested. There is the existing dock history window display off Albion Wharf in the part-finished Regatta Quay development which could also form part of a new Waterfront-based museum. How about allocating that empty plot of land between Star Lane and College St for a new museum? It would link the town centre and waterfront, there would be the two historic churches (St Peter's and St Mary at Quay [or Quay Place now]) at either end, the part-renovated historic Burton, Son & Sanders building by Wolsey's Gate (another historic artefact!), and the empty units on College St at the base of the Mill development that could be used as a cafe or other concession to link the Waterfront window display to the new museum site. The whole area could become a historic quarter, and it is only a short walk to the University buildings and the planned heritage centre. Road crossings would have to be re-thought to make an attractive walkway to link Star Lane-Museum-College St-Regatta Quay-Albion Wharf. Any takers?

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    Dobbie1973

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Yes it should , I haven't been to the museum for years and our children have yet to visit it and we live near it ! We often go to Christchurch park but never go to the mansion , What are the visitor numbers like at the museum?

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    Macke

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

  • Interesting debate for a change but perhaps we should move the museum to endeavour house plenty of dinosaurs there ! ...On a serious note , would it not be better to build something special in Christchurch park to house the old relics , I'm not sure the waterfront is the place tho it does lack one special attraction like an old ship .

    Report this comment

    deeber

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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