Lancashire council gives go ahead for museum closures

Future of the collections unclear ahead of 12-week consultation period
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Rebecca Atkinson
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A proposal to close five museums in Lancashire was passed by the council in a meeting yesterday.

As previously reported by Museums Journal, Lancashire County Council plans to close the Museum of Lancashire in Preston, Fleetwood Museum, Queen Street Mill in Burnley, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum and Judges' Lodgings Museum in Lancaster, from next April.

Five further museums, including Lancaster City Museum and Lancaster Castle, would be expected to fully cover their costs through a new charging policy implemented from 1 April 2016.

The proposals would save the council £1.13m in 2017-18.
 
Lancashire County Council will shortly launch a 12-week consultation with stakeholders and members of the public, to seek views on all the proposals in the budget.
 
It has also already been in talks with Arts Council England (ACE), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Historic England about its plans.
 
The textile industry collections at Queen Street Mill and Helmshore Mills Textile Museum are Designated, due to the fact they are original machines, still in working order and preserved in situ.
 
John Orna-Ornstein, the director of museums at ACE, said: “We are ensuring that the council is aware of the value of these collections. We will continue to work with the council, the HLF and Historic England, to ensure the best possible result.”
 
The mills are also listed as Scheduled Monuments.
 
The HLF has invested £919,400 in the Museum of Lancashire and £720,000 in Helmshore Mills Textile Museum, which it could claw back if the sites close.
 
A spokeswoman for the HLF said: “We are currently in discussion with Lancashire council in order to assess the situation and the wider risk to our investment. It is important that recipients of National Lottery funding honour their contractual obligations, and the recovery of grant money is an option we will consider.”
 
Sharon Heal, the director of the Museums Association, said: “It would be a great loss to the people and communities of Lancashire if these museums were to close.

“They represent a crucial part of the area’s social history, and the industrial machinery is significant enough to have earned it Designated collection status.

"This threat to collections and the great work that many of these museums do demonstrates the pressure that local authorities are under but the council and public should understand that if the collection is mothballed and the buildings are closed or sold off they could be gone forever.”

Links

Lancashire County Council's proposed budget for cultural services (pdf)

Petition: Save Lancashire's Mill Museums

Petition: Save Lancashire's heritage from council cuts




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