Ipswich Museum embarks on £8.7m redevelopment - Museums Association

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Ipswich Museum embarks on £8.7m redevelopment

Three-year project will add gallery space and see collections reinterpreted
The Victorian taxidermy displays will be entirely reinterpreted and redisplayed by 2025
The Victorian taxidermy displays will be entirely reinterpreted and redisplayed by 2025

Ipswich Museum in Suffolk has received lottery funding to support a major redevelopment.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded the museum a grant of £4,324,800 for the £8.7m project, which will be backed up by £3.6m in funding from Ipswich Borough Council.

The Friends of Ipswich Museum will put £40,000 towards the project, and the remaining £450,000 will be raised through trusts and charitable foundations.

The revamp will add gallery and education space, a new cafe and improved shop and toilets, as well as reinterpreting Ipswich Museum’s rich collections, including its extensive world cultures collection.

The museum will work with Ipswich communities and visitors to reinterpret objects sensitively, as well as aiming to reinstall a sense of pride in the town and museum.

Purpose-built in 1881, Ipswich Museum holds exceptional geological and entomological collections as well as rare Victorian taxidermy dioramas. The redevelopment will safeguard these for the future with the installation of new heating, a lift to make the museum fully accessible, insulation and lighting, which will improve the museum’s environmental and sustainable performance.  

A projection of the new Wonders gallery when the museum reopens

The project is intended to finish by summer 2025 and marks a major milestone in the county town’s history. It builds on the success of the recent exhibitions in the Ipswich like the Power of Stories at Christchurch Mansion, which displayed three of Marvel Studio’s costumes for the Black Panther movie.


Carole Jones, Ipswich Borough Council’s Museums portfolio-holder, said: “We are delighted to receive this support thanks to National Lottery players. This redevelopment will do something special and imaginative with our wonderful collections in a building that was specifically designed to showcase them to the public. We are looking forward to working with the people of Ipswich and the Heritage Fund to inspire a new generation through Ipswich Museum.”

Anne Jenkins, director, England, Midlands and East at the Heritage Fund, said: "We are delighted to support Ipswich Museum with its ambitious project to redevelop its museum and reinterpret its collections. With thanks to National Lottery layers, this project will enable the museum to bring its amazing collections to life in new ways and be much more engaging for local people and visitors alike. It will showcase Ipswich’s rich history in a way that everyone can enjoy and be proud of.”

James Steward, Ipswich museums manager at Colchester & Ipswich Museums Service, said: “This exciting redevelopment will respond to meaningful strategic, and community need by transforming the visitor experience. It is an opportunity to renew the relationship with our audiences, gather new stories and co-curate inspiring displays that will aim to be engaging and relevant to all. It has been a long-held ambition for the museum, and the project was essential if aspirations of local people for their museums and local heritage are to be fulfilled and to reflect both change and continuity in the town.”

Comments (2)

  1. Ian Luck says:

    I’m afraid that it looks like you are going to ruin Ipswich museum. You cannot alter the past, no matter how much the mistakes that were made then might irk you. You use a lot of management speak to obfuscate, but basically, you are going to remove the delicious charm of this building, and dumb it down for the generations who have no attention span, or interest in the past. I worked here in 1990, and it was wonderful, but I have noticed, over the years, the displays getting simpler and less interesting. The fearsome figure of Boudicca, went, and on a recent visit, most of the replicas of the Sutton Hoo and Mildenhall treasures had gone. Why? They were something to be proud about.
    To be quite honest, the artists impressions of the interior of the museum look utterly repellent – more like a 1970’s boutique than a museum. You know it’s going to be a huge waste of time and money, when the premier items on the list of ‘improvements’ are a coffee shop and a souvenir shop. Most of Ipswich has already been ruined by ‘improvements’, and I was hoping that my beloved museum would avoid the same fate. But no, it seems that Ipswich needs a museum as empty of wonder and imagination as most administrators’ heads.
    I feel very strongly about this. I’ve been visiting here since at least 1968. I guarantee that most visitors over the age of 20, or parents, or grandparents taking the children to see the exhibits, and finding dumbed down empty space, will be bitterly disappointed and vocal.
    I hope I’m wrong. I know I’m not.


    Ian Luck

  2. says:

    I am horrified to see these imagined images of a redeveloped museum. I can’t believe that ANYONE would look at the second picture (the new idea) and find it more interesting or appealing than the first picture (the Victorian taxidermy display as it is still now).

    I would say that this Victorian gallery and much of the rest of Ipswich museum, has great historical value in itself. There is so much that can be taught and learned through engaging with the museum as it was originally conceived and constructed. It seems to me to be an act of great insensitivity and philistinism to treat it as a random lot of objects to be rearranged and not to see that the whole, as it exists now, is far greater than the sum of its parts.

    The Victorian taxidermy, dioramas and drawers full of labelled creatures (or parts of creatures) are wonderful! They are inspiring and intriguing to visitors of all ages. The imagined new look has the blandness of an empty shopping centre. It is hardly surprising that the sketched-in figures look like they have little interest in their surroundings!

    The American Museum of Natural History in New York has lovingly restored it’s fabulous hall of dioramas, (scenes of taxidermy in imagined settings, bigger versions of the lovely one in Ipswich museum), recognising that these have educational, artistic and historic value. “These dioramas represent perhaps a kind of apotheosis of art and science in terms of craftsmanship,” (Michael J. Novacek, museum provost, New York Times).

    I fear that you are taking Ipswich Museum down a road to irrelevance and eventual closure. Surely the way to secure a future for the museum would be to recognise its specialness and beauty, and to tell its story in a way that would inspire and enthuse current and future generations.

    Profoundly dismayed,


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