Weston-super-Mare Museum building closed its doors in April 2015 and is now being transformed ready to reopen as a brand new heritage and community space in late Summer 2017
Refurbishment Project Overview
Weston Museum is the home of the North Somerset Collections and has both national and regional significance. In 2011, the Town Council took over the building with the plan to develop and refurbish the museum for the community and for visitors to the town, as well as the chance to renew the displays and interpretation to modern-day standards. The museum is housed in a Grade II Listed Victorian industrial building of much architectural character. The redevelopment project has allowed much of the building to be uncovered.
There will be new bridges spanning the Courtyard space to provide full circulation of the upper floor, where the three main gallery spaces will be. The galleries will move in chronological order from the distant past right up to the present, showcasing some of the key objects from the collections, including geology, archaeology, art, social history and many other types of items. There will also be a new temporary exhibition space, fitted out with increased security, to enable travelling exhibitions from other museums to be displayed there alongside exhibitions from the North Somerset collections.
The ever-popular Clara's Cottage has not yet had any drastic refurbishment, but will hopefully have some development work carried out as part of the second phase of development. The team is very much aware that the cottage holds fond memories for many local visitors who remember visiting it in previous years and will try to bear this in mind with any work, in order to retain the cottage's charm.
A new Learning Space has been included where the old exhibition gallery was, to facilitate learning sessions, school visits and family activities and there will be a small Community Gallery space to display images and items from local community groups.
There will also be a brand new shop area and a new cafe space to make a visit to the museum inviting and comfortable and enable visitors to take home a gift, souvenir or locally sourced item.
Throughout the refurbishment stage, the museum team, including the many dedicated volunteers, have been hard at work forging relationships with local organisations, schools and community groups. A successful learning programme, with school visits and resources, has been developed ready to take its place in the new Learning Space upon reopening. Available resources and activities can be explored by heading to the Schools and Learning pages. There have also been a number of historically inspired events over the closure period and the team have been attending local events to help keep word out about the project; upcoming events can be viewed by heading to the What's On? page. All of these activities can only take place with the help of volunteers and despite the museum being closed there is always something for people to help out with, so if you are interested in getting involved, head to the Volunteering page to find out more.
Project Work Progress
A huge amount of work has taken place throughout the refurbishment and some areas of the museum building have seen big changes, whilst others are still very familiar. Blog posts of project progress images taken during hard hat tours have been posted on our website blog - here or here - and below is a selection of images taken throughout the project of object selection activities, hard hat tours, design plans and of the building as it has taken shape.
A space that was previously unseen by the general public, the old meeting room, has now been transformed ready to become a new gallery space, which will display some of the wonderful works of art in the collections. Below left you can see an image of the old meeting room after being stripped out and in the centre is an image of the new appearance, showing the new flooring and lovely new colours on the walls. To the right, you can also see a basic design for the layout of the new displays within the space, including plinths for busts (please note, this is a basic draft and not a final impression).
The plinths for this gallery (as well as other items within the museum) have been supported by a kind donation from the now closed group Weston Society of Arts (a blog post about this can be found here)
Our Buy-a-Block campaign was well supported by individuals, organisations and businesses from the local community; it has helped with much needed funds for the project and awareness of the museum. Thank you to everyone who bought a block. 883 blocks were sold and they have now been inscribed with names and placed within the flooring of the Courtyard; to the right is an image taken during a previous hard hat tour, of a small number of the blocks placed on the floor in the area where they would later be properly laid into the flooring. In order to see the names, the blocks were positioned perpendicular to the others already in the floor, but will be positioned to match the lines in the original block floor.
If you weren't able to purchase a block in the first round, there will be other rounds to follow, as other additional areas of the museum are developed (subject to funding in later project stages). The fundraiser will open again, once the museum has re-opened in August 2017 in order to support phase 2.
Big Thanks to Our Funders
The Town Council invested greatly in to the project, but without grant funding bodies this project would not have been possible.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has been the biggest funder, granting £1,096,000 towards the redevelopment.
Coastal Communities grant funding of £50,000 covered the cost of the moveable walling, professional lighting and display cabinets for the Temporary exhibition gallery.
£15,000 was granted from the Fairfield Trust with a further £15,000 coming from an anonymous supporter. Both these funds have been put towards the project.
The Arts Council England has supported the museum through 2 grant funding streams, the first is its Resilience Fund of £52,200, which is supporting the museum through consultation on retail, catering and audience development, as well as funds going towards the café and the shop fit out. The other successful application was to Grants for the Arts for a further £15,000 for a mural and artist installation
The Friends of Weston Museum were successful with their bid to Garfield Weston and managed to secure a further £30,000.
Funding has also come through sponsorship with Weston Society of Arts sponsoring the plinth in the RAT Gallery, the ‘Then and Now’ photo album interactive in the Seaside Gallery and a couple of accessible chairs and desks for the Learning space.
Weston College has sponsored the Learning Space and is working with the Town Council and museum staff to furnish the space to meet the needs of a variety of audiences.
This is the biggest project the Town Council has undertaken and there are plans to start developing phase 2 of the museum which will bring in the rear courtyard, back of house areas and Clara’s Cottage.
The museum team is working towards the museum being dementia friendly when we reopen in the summer and have been leading or supporting various reminiscence activities. The Alzheimer’s Society is supporting us in this goal and have provided useful information and ideas for engaging with people living with dementia. The museum has also joined the North Somerset Dementia Action Alliance, which was set up to make life better for people with dementia and their families and carers. The group raises awareness of dementia with businesses, organisations and individuals, encouraging them to sign up to the National Dementia Declaration and helping them to create a sustainable action plan. If you would like to read more about our reminiscence activities then head to our Reminiscence page
We are also working with a number of other local organisations, such as Vision North Somerset, to try to make the new museum as accessible as possible to visitors with a range of disabilities, hearing impairments or sight impairments. Whereas the old museum building was not fully accessible, due to the lack of a lift, the new museum now has a small lift that can enable wheelchair users to access the upper floor and fully enjoy the new displays.
Spaces to Hire
As previously, the museum will have different spaces available for hire, including the wonderfully light and open covered Courtyard space and the new Learning Space, which will be perfect for meetings, events and conferences.
Charges for hire will be posted here closer to the reopening date and will include both commercial and community prices.