Have your say on new museum service

PUBLISHED: 14:26 17 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

A SPECIAL group has been set up to discuss plans for a new museum service in North Herts and members of the public are invited to join it. The first meeting of the arts, heritage and cultural forum is on Monday, January 30, at 6.30pm at the North Hertford

A SPECIAL group has been set up to discuss plans for a new museum service in North Herts and members of the public are invited to join it.

The first meeting of the arts, heritage and cultural forum is on Monday, January 30, at 6.30pm at the North Hertfordshire District Council offices, Gernon Road, Letchworth GC.

The council has already proposed outline plans for significant new investment in its museums and galleries service.

These include a new £5million museum to be opened in either Hitchin or Letchworth GC town centre.

This will replace the present buildings in each town which are now seen as unsuitable, lacking the modern facilities and physical requirements of a modern museum such as full disabled access, toilets and research and study areas. They are also expensive to maintain and inefficient to run.

The proposed new museum will be more economic to run, saving £125,000 a year, as well as offering the improved facilities that are needed to bring the museums service up to 21st century standards.

At present displays and collections are split across the two sites, with Hitchin specialising in costume and social history while Letchworth GC features natural history and archaeology and has a purpose-built art gallery for temporary exhibitions.

Many of the museums' artefacts are in storage at Burymead in Hitchin and the council plans to replace this warehouse in a separate two-year £1million programme, making the collections much more accessible to the public.

Plans are also in hand to update the museums' website and extend its popular scheme of sending loan boxes of museum objects out to schools.

The council is in discussions with Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, which is planning to redevelop its own new museum featuring the history of the garden city, and with other interested bodies such as the voluntary museums and galleries of North Herts and Hertfordshire County Council, which runs the libraries.

Cllr Ian Knighton, portfolio holder for leisure who was lead member on the review of the museums and galleries service, said: "The key to the success of the project is involving the public and building on the expertise that exists in the local community.

"We want them to be fully engaged and the art, heritage and cultural forum will act as a key point of consultation for the whole life of the project which is expected to take a minimum of five years to implement.

"We are at a very early stage at the moment and will be looking closely at all the options including finding the best site and what facilities should be included. It is really important to get this right and put the resources in the right place."

Anybody interested is welcome to attend the first meeting of the forum on January 30. If they cannot be there but would like to contribute to the debate they should contact Lynn Saville, head of strategy and support services, on 01462 474530.

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www.north-herts.gov.uk

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