Grant boost for North Herts Museum

L to R: NHDCs Steve Crowley, Brian Beck with site manager for Borras, NHDCs cultural services manage

L to R: NHDCs Steve Crowley, Brian Beck with site manager for Borras, NHDCs cultural services manager Ros Allwood, cllr Tony Hunter, Phil Rothwell from Heritage Lottery Fund (Eastern Region committee), cllr Lynda Needham leader of NHDC and John Robinson NHDCs strategic director of customer services - Credit: Archant

A project which was launched to house a district museum has been awarded a grant of thousands of pounds.

North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC) has received a confirmed grant of £914,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its ‘Unlocking the Heritage of North Hertfordshire’ project, it was announced today (Monday).

The project will help fund the new North Hertfordshire Museum in Hitchin, next to the Town Hall, ensuring that the story of the district is told through modern displays.

Thousands of fascinating museum objects will be displayed for the first time, showing items which up to now have been packed away in storerooms in Hitchin and Letchworth GC.

While the old museums are closed, a committed team of staff, volunteers and museum interns have been busy cleaning, photographing and cataloguing these items.

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Part of the HLF grant will help fund this crucial work.

The grant will also allow the designers, Mather & Co, to ensure that the displays in the new museum reflect the history of North Hertfordshire. Downstairs there will be a gallery telling the history of the district in a chronological manner, from pre-history, when this area was submerged under a warm sea, to the 21st century.

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There will also be an air-conditioned temporary exhibition gallery on the ground floor, where staff will be able to display high-quality paintings borrowed from other museums.

The galleries upstairs will be themed, looking at how people have lived and worked in North Hertfordshire over the years.

Some favourite items from the old museums, such as Hitchin’s Victorian chemist’s shop and the huge cauldron buried with Baldock’s Iron Age chieftain will be re-displayed in the upper gallery, as well as items which the public may never have seen, such as the football collection, and material about local suffragettes.

Thanks to the HLF grant, the museum will have state-of-the-art display cases and lighting, to help ensure that the facility looks modern and welcoming for visitors the museum hopes to attract.

The new museum will have a large education and activity space, where courses and workshops will be held for adults and children during the day and in the evenings.

There will also be a dedicated Local Studies Room, where family historians will have easy access to the archive collections.

Cllr Tony Hunter, NHDC’s portfolio holder for community engagement said: “We are delighted to receive this important grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will help us ensure that the Museum will be a fantastic visitor destination, when it opens its doors to the public next year, displaying the heritage of North Hertfordshire in a modern and attractive way.”

Phil Rothwell, member of the Heritage Lottery Fund East of England Committee, said: “This is a really exciting project that brings together cherished collections in a new location that will ensure they are available for local people and visitors to enjoy into the future. There will be plenty of opportunities for community activities, learning and volunteer involvement.”

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