The Natural History Museum has turned down a proposal to establish a branch in Aberdeen’s vacant Norco House building, saying it has no plans to develop a regional offer.
The building, a well-known landmark of brutalist architecture, was home to a John Lewis department store before closing in 2021. It was subsequently used as a vaccination centre.
John Lewis, which still owns the store, is proposing to gift it to Aberdeen City Council as a gesture of goodwill. The council has been considering options for repurposing the building, despite warnings that it would come with significant liabilities.
The museum proposal was put forward by councillor Marie Boulton, who was inspired by similar satellite projects such as the Eden Project in Dundee and V&A Dundee.
However following talks with museum and government officials, the council’s chief city growth officer, Richard Sweetnam, told the council that the Natural History Museum had confirmed it has no plans to develop a regional offer anywhere in the UK.
A council report said that discussions between the local authority, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the director of the Natural History Museum, had “established that the Natural History Museum’s forward plan does not include the development of regional outposts”.
However the report said that some positive outcomes had come out of the discussions, including “additions to Aberdeen Archives, Gallery and Museums public programmes, loans from the Natural History Museum, and opportunities for city-wide partnerships involving heritage and science partners such as the University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections, and the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society.”