Creating learning spaces in historic buildings - Museums Association

Creating learning spaces in historic buildings

Torre Abbey shares its experiences
Dee Martin
The restoration of Torre Abbey Historic House and Gardens in Torquay, Devon, in 2012-13 included the creation of new learning and interpretation spaces designed to extend our learning offer to creative education. We also wanted to diversify our audiences.

One of the key challenges was integrating our learning programmes into the fabric of Torre Abbey, a medieval monastery, while providing access for the widest possible audience.

To achieve this, we position learning spaces throughout the building. These include our LearningLab, which provides an accessible area for creative learning, with sinks for “messy” work and digital facilities.

The space is connected to the abbey’s cloisters, but it also has a separate entrance, which allows us to accommodate groups outside our opening hours.

This visible, welcoming space has drawn interest from external organisations, such as performance groups and those working with young people. As a result, our new learning programme combines our core offer with partner delivery across performance, creative arts, history, archaeology and outdoor learning.

We also have a Hidden House zone, where younger children can take part in exploratory activities focusing on the historic fabric of the site, materials and processes. This flexible space also accommodates early years’ creative learning and play.

Finally, we converted the abbey’s top floor into an interactive gallery. This is designed to engage audiences of all ages, and provides different access points depending on visitors’ interests, age and understanding.

Dee Martin is the learning officer at Torre Abbey Historic House and Gardens

Leave a comment

You must be to post a comment.


Join the Museums Association today to read this article

Over 12,000 museum professionals have already become members. Join to gain access to exclusive articles, free entry to museums and access to our members events.