Revamped Saddleworth Museum ready to open doors to the public

LOCALS CAN step back in time once more at Saddleworth Museum as it reopens its doors in September following a major £1.25 million refurbishment.

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The front extension

Passers-by will have noticed the construction activity at the museum since September 2015, thanks to the Heritage Lottery grant obtained by the curator and trustees and volunteers after seven years of effort.

There is new front extension to bring the building up to the High Street while a new entrance will make the museum fully accessible and there will be a lift, new toilets, a new shop and visitor information service.

Now the final touches are being put in place before visitors can get a glimpse inside the new-look museum – which was originally opened in 1962 – when it reopens on Saturday, September 17 at 1pm.

John Hodges, chair of the Museum Committee, said: “There are still a few bits and pieces to be finished off here and there but we’re getting there now.

“A lot of the artefacts remained on site during the revamp as they were just moved into the art gallery which wasn’t altered. But now they are extremely dusty so staff and volunteers are cleaning and restoring them.

Whilst laying the foundations for the new extended entrance- those pipes and culverts
Pipies and culverts discovered while laying foundations for the new entrance

“We’ll also have a few new exhibits with artefacts that haven’t been on show before, and displays about local people which will be very interesting.”

He added: “There have been a few minor delays, such as finding steam pipes from the former mill and we weren’t sure what to do with them initially, and there was an old culvert that had to be rebuilt.

“But that was to be expected and we are very pleased with the project and the work that has been done.”

Charlie Middlewood, Museum Committee member, added: “The building could not be modified to re-site the entrance to the high street as one early thought so many of the renovation plans were determined by that fact.

“Many other factors, including remnants of the building’s previous life as a mill, presented both challenges and opportunities to the project team.

“Other examples of late modification would be that the full glass frontage for the atrium changed to one on the lower floor only with a viewing window on the first floor.

He added: “The re-display of the collections will take approximately six weeks and one of the major museum partners, Headland Design Associates, is helping install many exciting new features to our gallery areas.

“These features have been in design and planning with the curator and volunteer teams for more than two years and physical items, such as the new display cabinets, can now finally be delivered!

First floor gallery looking east 20th July
The first floor gallery

“The curator, Peter Fox, believes the new galleries will ‘flow’ far more successfully and the installation of modern audio/visual aids and the interactives should appeal across the generations.

“While iconic items such as the Dobcross Loom have been retained, this project has presented the museum with an exciting opportunity to make this a thoroughly modern local museum appealing to all.”

Beyond the Heritage Lottery project, the museum has also self-funded improvements to the Carnegie gallery, the kitchen and the art gallery areas.

Essential self-funded visitor area work will also be carried out by trustee and volunteer, Stephen Whitehead, with his volunteer maintenance team before the re-opening in September.

There will be an official opening ceremony later in November.

For volunteering opportunities or more information about learning activities and events, email learning@saddleworthmuseum.co.uk

For enquiries about or joining the Friends of Saddleworth Museum, email friends@saddleworthmuseum.co.uk

For all other queries, email curator@saddleworthmuseum.co.uk or telephone 01457 874093 or visit the temporary shop and information portakabin on the museum car park from 1-4pm.

 

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