Museums dig in as Saxon centre suceeds

A MUSEUM curator has raised fears that the huge success of the new multi-million pound Sutton Hoo visitor centre in Suffolk could leave other museums in the region with declining numbers.

A MUSEUM curator has raised fears that the huge success of the new multi-million pound Sutton Hoo visitor centre in Suffolk could leave other museums in the region with declining numbers.

The Sutton Hoo centre, managed by the National Trust, is set in 254 acres of woodland running alongside the banks of the River Deben between Woodbridge and Bawdsey.

The site of the Anglo-Saxon burial ship has attracted 1,500 visitors a day since it opened just over two weeks ago – with the return of the priceless Sutton Hoo treasure proving to be a big attraction.

Lisa Harris, assistant curator at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket where visitor numbers were down on last year's Easter, said there is a feeling that some museums in the region will suffer because of the new £5million centre's huge popularity.

She said: "Places like West Stow will benefit because they have an Anglo-Saxon focus as well, possibly Ipswich Museum with its Anglo-Saxon galleries.

"But with people rushing to Sutton Hoo it's possible they are not coming to see us and other museums in the area.

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"It's something that has been raised at different Suffolk Museum Group meetings, but it is unclear how far reaching an effect it will have.''

Tess Wright, managing director for the East of England Tourist Board, said she believed other attractions would lose out as the Sutton Hoo centre receives huge regional and national publicity.

But she felt that this would be a short term problem which would settle down by the summer, and the Sutton Hoo centre would actually bring more people in to East Anglia who have never visited before.

Kate Sussams, property manager at the Sutton Hoo visitor centre, believes the centre is actually creating interest in East Anglia and people who visit can go on to see other museums.

She said: "We are bringing people in to the area and there is a lot to see in this part of the world, not just Sutton Hoo.

"There is the Woodbridge Museum and lots of other attractions. In the 15 days we have been open we have had 15,000 to 20,000 here which has been brilliant.''

She added that the Sutton Hoo centre could also work closely with other Anglo-Saxon sites in the area.

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