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Town museum a real exhibit again

PUBLISHED: 06:43 13 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:37 03 March 2010

STAFF at Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich High Street were celebrating today after the service was promoted back to the premier league of Britain's museums.

STAFF at Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich High Street were celebrating today after the service was promoted back to the premier league of Britain's museums.

The borough's museums' service lost its national registration two years ago when controversial changes were brought in.

The service was "downgraded" to provisional status, as a result of the museums review, which raised the possibility of cutbacks at Christchurch Mansion and the Ipswich Museum.

The council threatened initial cuts of £150,000 in funding and a major reorganization, losing up to six members of staff.

The museums' supporters stepped in to challenge the proposals, threatening the council with court action. The two sides eventually reached agreement and Tim Heyburn was appointed in May 1999 to manage the service.

A year later, the museums resubmitted a bid for registration – a national quality standard – which has now been successful.

It will be a vital factor in winning outside funding, giving the museums greater purchasing power, said Mr Heyburn, head of museums and culture.

With more money potentially available, the museums may also be able to show more of their extensive collections of art, zoology, botany, geology, archaeology and ethnography.

Mr Heyburn added: "The service appears to be picking up. Things are happening and we are very proud of that. We need to get more people in to see what we are doing."

Jack Chapman, chairman of the Ipswich Society, said: "It is a constant battle to get people to appreciate the museums we have here in Ipswich. It has now obviously been noted that we are doing a good enough job again to be properly registered. We will continue to press the council for more resources."

Paul Bruce, vice chairman of the Friends of Ipswich Museum, said there was still an urgent need for a keeper of fine arts.

He added: "A few years ago we were in a sorry state but thankfully we are in good shape again."

Councillor John Mowles, the council's leisure spokesman, admitted tough decisions had to be taken two years ago but stressed it was more about spending money wisely than saving money. He added that services had improved thanks to the hard work of staff at the museum and support from the Friends.

The High Street Museum has new facilities for people with disabilities and last week launched the Ipswich Story – an exhibition of the town's history.

www.ipswich.gov.uk

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