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Letter: The Museum Can Have An Exciting Future If The Council Makes The Right Decisions

Published on: 25 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2015

Gavin Morgan Inset MuseumFrom: Gavin Morgan

Guildford Heritage Forum

The report of the council’s museum working group was approved by the Executive on November 24. It is a good, carefully written piece of work.

It explains the council’s actions but acknowledges the public’s concerns. It sets out the terms of reference for the next phase of the review but emphasises the importance of consulting the public.

A museum consultant has been appointed and the next phase, actually deciding what to do with the museum, is about to start.

Actions speak so much louder than words. Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) actions towards the Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS) have made it hard for many people to trust the council’s words.

Now that its words have been committed to print we have proof that the council shares our aspirations for a proper museum. Fears that the museum would be downgraded to an adjunct of the tourist office can be laid to rest.

Guildford Museum is like a treasure box consigned to the attic and forgotten. It is in a quiet corner of the town and many people do not know it is there. But those of us who know its contents know what treasures it holds and now we have the chance to revive it.

There is much to do. First the relationship with the archaeological society needs to be sorted out. It not only created our museum but helped us discover our story.

To name a couple of its achievements, it discovered the physical evidence behind our town’s origins in the form of rare Saxon glass and one of the most important Roman temple sites in the country is in our borough.

The society’s relationship with the town definitely needed to be reviewed and although the process has been difficult (to say the least) we hope that all parties will talk and sort this out as soon as possible. There needs to be a proper legal agreement covering the loan of SAS collections to the museum and we believe this is currently being negotiated.

Next we need to decide what we are trying to achieve. So far the emphasis has been on looking for new sites and creating displays that will appeal to a broad audience.

A museum, however, is much more than an exhibition. It needs to be something that serves the entire community and is the focus for all efforts to understand, appreciate and celebrate our past.

It not only needs to be take an active part in promoting local history but should work with local groups and schools.

The appointment of museum consultants, Stuart Davies Associates was a great decision and will help define the museum working group’s approach.

There are two big questions: What services do we want from the museum and what should we do with the Castle Arch site?

Of course, staying put and attracting some of the 400,000 who already visit the Castle Grounds into new galleries in Castle Arch is one option. Moving to another venue is another, although the public have not been told what other venues are being considered.

It would have to be fairly large to justify a move and to be a tourist attraction in its own right.

We believe a community that is in tune with its past will make better decisions about its future. The forthcoming Local Plan for Guildford makes it more important than ever that we are able to understand what makes our town special and preserve the best of our past.

To be successful the museum needs the support of the community. We are the biggest stakeholders and that is why we all need to get involved.

The Guildford Heritage Forum will continue to encourage, question and support where necessary. We wish to work with the museum working group and if we get it right then exciting times lie ahead.

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Responses to Letter: The Museum Can Have An Exciting Future If The Council Makes The Right Decisions

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    November 26, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    I understand that Guildford House is under-used. Why not re-establish the museum there? It is an appropriate building, already has a cafe and is central.

  2. Geoff Davis Reply

    November 27, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Guildford House is a unique building in the High Street – built from wood.

    As such is creaks, has sloping floors, and limited weight capacity.

    It is a huge asset for the town, but unfortunately it does not work for the museum relocation.

    Geoff Davis is the Conservative ward councillor for Holy Trinity and the lead councillor for economic development, tourism and heritage.

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