Our plans for the biggest improvement to Ipswich Museum for decades

There will be a further bid for funding for Ipswich Museum Picture: Ipswich Borough Council

There will be a further bid for funding for Ipswich Museum Picture: Ipswich Borough Council - Credit: Archant

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given a grant to develop ambitious plans for the site.

Ipswich Museum is a much-loved institution. The current building in High Street opened in 1881 – having moved up the road from what is now Arlington’s restaurant in Museum Street – and was purpose-built for “the education of the working classes in natural history”.

Its founders were at the cutting edge of scientific debate, and numerous benefactors filled the Museum with outstanding collections of natural history, archaeology, geology and ethnography.

From its earliest days Ipswich Museum has been associated with notable experts and enthusiasts.

Charles Darwin’s tutor, the Reverend John Henslow, was one of its early Presidents and Prince Albert was an official Patron.

Nina Layard, the first woman President of the Prehistoric Society, developed its Archaeology collections.

Basil Brown, who discovered the Anglo-Saxon ship and its treasure at Sutton Hoo, was a long-standing Ipswich Museum archaeologist.

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2019 begins with good news. We have been successful in gaining a first stage grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an £8 million refurbishment of the museum.

Due to the large number of applications the HLF expected over 80% of Stage 1 bids to fail, so for Ipswich to be successful is a real tribute to the people who worked so hard to put our bid together.

“Stage 1” funding from the HLF is to work up in full detail the outline plans we submitted.

These are: to refurbish and repair the Grade II listed building itself; improve the existing galleries; add new galleries; a new education space; a café and more toilets.

We will also detail our plans to bring more visitors into the Museum, especially people who don’t normally visit museums but who we know would benefit in many ways if we can draw them through the doors.

The total sum for this stage is £807,000: £461,600 from the HLF, £300,000 from the Council and £10,000 from the Friends of Ipswich Museums.

There’s a huge amount of work still to do to ensure we win the rest of the funding from the HLF and success isn’t guaranteed.

But the Council, our museum staff and the Friends of Ipswich Museums are all committed to bringing about what will be the most significant improvements to our museum in decades.

• David Ellesmere is leader of Ipswich Borough Council

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