Huge boost for £23m planned expansion of Ipswich Museum

Officials hope that the rebuilt museum could be open to the public in 2019 or 2020.

Officials hope that the rebuilt museum could be open to the public in 2019 or 2020. - Credit: Archant

Plans for a £23million expansion of Ipswich Museum look set to win a major boost, the Star can reveal.

Ipswich Borough Council’s executive will be asked to increase its commitment to the project by £5m at its meeting next week – taking it to a total of £6.25m.

And, crucially, that level of support could help unlock major grants from the Heritage Lottery fund and Arts Council. The council is seeking £4.8m and £2.5m from each organisation respectively.

Last night, the authority’s portfolio holder for museums Carole Jones said: “The important thing is that we are going ahead with the applications and getting them together. The extra £5m is an indication of our determination to get these grants.”

The borough hopes that it will not have to spend all £6.25m – it is hoping to raise further funds in donations and grants from other bodies involved in the Ipswich Vision project, which is aiming to transform the town centre.

But the commitment is seen as vital to persuade the HLF and Arts Council that the borough is serious about the applications.

The extra commitment has cross-party support and the borough is also hoping that residents of the town and visitors from elsewhere in the county will show their support for the project on its Facebook page.

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The council needs to put in its new bids for grants to the HLF and Arts Council by the end of this month and hopes to hear the result of these by Christmas.

If it is successful detailed planning of the project will be able to get under way. Officials hope that the rebuilt museum could be open to the public in 2019 or 2020.

Ipswich Museum was opened in 1881 after moving from its original site which is now Arlington’s Restaurant.

The £23m rebuilding would see the High Street Gallery, the Ipswich Art School and the Wolsey Studio Theatre come together in a single museum campus.

They would be linked by an indoor street at the back of the existing buildings.

The Ipswich Art and Museum project would also see the creation of a café and meeting area at the front of the museum and improved galleries throughout the building.

It would enable many more of the museum’s objects that are usually kept in storage to be put on display – and the galleries will be improved to make them more welcoming.

Some of the museum’s most interesting rooms which are currently used as offices will be opened to the public.

If you want to show your support for the project, like the scheme on Facebook by following this link: