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Birmingham Museum to close for at least three years - but new ‘world-class’ centre is planned to house collections

By Jack Averty | Attractions | Published:

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is to close for at least three years but a new ‘world-class’ centre is being planned to house collections.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is to close for at least three years but a new ‘world-class’ centre is being planned to house collections

The museum at Chamberlain Square is due to shut down in October 2019 as part of a redevelopment of the council house which requires a major overall of its electrical system in particular.

But it is hoped a new multi-million pound collection centre in Yardley, which would double up as a new headquarters for Birmingham Museums Trust, will be operational by 2020/21 providing public access to thousands of artefacts which are currently locked up in storage.

While the city centre site will still remain the flagship attraction the earliest some of the galleries will be able to re-open is 2022 in time for Birmingham hosting the Commonwealth Games.

The city council’s cabinet agreed for a business plan to be drawn up to develop the new centre, which would be built on the former Poolway Shopping Centre.

The site has been earmarked for housing but now a masterplan is in the works to create an ‘urban village’ featuring homes, retail, green spaces and the new centre.

While the collection facility would house around 45,000 artefacts out of the musuem’s 50,000-strong collection and while they would not be displayed in traditional exhibitions they would still be more accessible to the public than they are at the moment with intentions to host guided tours, study sessions and workshops.

At the moment the museum occupies part of the main Grade II* listed council house building and almost two thirds of the council house extension to the rear which is adjoined by a bridge.

Much of the collection, which boasts around one million objects in total, lies in storage at the Museum Collection Centre on Dollman Street in Nechells.

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Both sets of properties are infested by rodents, suffer from water penetration and present issues around access, lack of storage, the security of the collections and moving objects around.

The plan is for the museum to relocate from the council house to the extension for the first phase of redevelopment works but an alternative storage solution is required when work starts on the extension itself.

A major factor is that when the council revamp project is completed the museum trust will be forced to relinquish 73,948sq ft (6,870 sq m) of space which is instead to be used for ‘commercial opportunities’.

A number of long-term options have been considered including refurbishing the site at Nechells but that would incur costs of up to £17m for temporary relocation of the collections. There are also fears that items would be vulnerable to theft and damage if they were moved multiple times.

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While in the future the building will be impacted by the HS2 line which will pass very close to it.

The preferred idea is to develop the new facility in Yardley which would help regenerate the area, benefit from greater transport links as well as attract funding from the likes of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

BMT has released some early mock-up images of what the centre may look like.

They also issued a statement which said: “Due to open in 2021, the proposed purpose-built facility will offer a completely new type of cultural proposition to engage and inspire new audiences.

“The initial phase will create a new storage facility to house the collections currently held at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, in readiness for the redevelopment of the city’s flagship museum.

“Subsequent development of the site will create spaces that will be available for community use including a café, homework zone and meeting rooms.

“Birmingham Museums Trust will offer a programme of events and activities including school visits, store tours, performances and skills development opportunities.

“The building will also become Birmingham Museums’ headquarters, where the trust will relocate back office, curatorial, conservation and technical teams.

“The new centre at Pool Way will ensure that people in Birmingham can engage with it in new and exciting ways.

“Retail and housing space will also form part of the plans to create a multi-use facility.”

Another statement relating to the closure and redevelopment of the museum added: “The redevelopment of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is an ambitious project which will create a museum fit for 21st century Birmingham.

“This is an ideal time for us to look at redeveloping the museum, as Birmingham City Council is planning major modernisation works to the council house complex.

“Working with the people of Birmingham, we will rethink the collection and showcase it in new and exciting ways to tell the city’s story.

“In line with wider regeneration plans across the city, the new museum will also offer better visitor experiences by significantly improving accessibility.”

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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