Talks stall on Natural History Museum branch in Aberdeen - Museums Association

Talks stall on Natural History Museum branch in Aberdeen

Council is hoping to create new satellite of museum in former John Lewis store
The Norco House building is on sale for £5m
The Norco House building is on sale for £5m Image by Eloc Nehpets via Flickr

Ambitious plans to establish a branch of the Natural History Museum in Aberdeen have stalled due to staffing changes at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Aberdeen City Council is exploring a proposal to turn the city’s former John Lewis department store into a satellite of the London-based institution.

The Norco House building is a familiar landmark, known for its brutalist architecture. The John Lewis store closed in December 2020 and the building has since been used as a Covid vaccination centre.

First mooted in February, the council's plans were inspired by similar satellite projects such as the V&A Dundee, which opened in 2018, and Eden Project Dundee, which is currently in development.

The council had been hoping to have talks with DCMS, which directly sponsors the Natural History Museum, about the viability of the proposal. But a report from council officers last week said: “Discussions around the potential for a satellite of the Natural History Museum have not progressed due to changes in personnel in DCMS.

“Officers are looking to meet with the head of cultural development and place-based investment to discuss the proposal.”


Norco House is currently on the market for £5m, adding greater urgency to the council’s plans.  

According to The Press & Journal, DCMS’s previous head of cultural development moved to a new post in April and the post has not been occupied since then.

More changes are expected at DCMS when the new prime minister takes office on 5 September, with a cabinet reshuffle likely to take place.

A spokeswoman for the Natural History Museum said the museum has not been approached by Aberdeen City Council at this stage.

Comments (2)

  1. Rowan Brown says:

    Is culture no longer a devolved matter?

    1. Jason Finch says:

      Yes but bear in mind NHM comes under the DCMS in relation to funding etc so it is appropriate at an early stage to talk to the DCMS. Just as if it was a French museum opening a branch in Perth that had a similar relationship to the French government you would talk to the cultural department of the French government or if NMS was to open a branch in York, York City Council would talk to ScotsGov and/or MGS

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