Our Trustees have agreed a Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2019, which guides our development.
Since this was agreed, two initiatives have taken place.
We announced in September 2016 that the Society is looking at the potential of moving the Wiltshire Museum to the Devizes Assize Courts, turning the historic building into a landmark tourism asset for the county.
The building is listed Grade II* and on the Historic England Buildings at Risk Register. It has been empty since the 1980’s. The owner has had planning permission and listed building consent to convert the building into flats for a number of years but has not yet implemented the permission. It is hoped the building can be acquired for community use.
Relocating the Museum to the Assize Courts would be a transformational project, linked to a newly revitalised area of the town. It could be a world-class building matching the importance of our internationally significant Designated collections. The building would offer more space, including a café, new library and purpose-built galleries.
The Director and Trustees of the Museum have begun investigating this opportunity. A business plan has been developed to ensure that a move would be financially sustainable and ensure any additional costs of running the new Museum could be met by income from increased visitors and from investing the sale proceeds of the current property.
An online poll following the announcement showed that there is lots of support for the idea of the project amongst WANHS members and the wider community in Devizes. It will be two or more years before a decision can be made on whether to go ahead with the project, and is conditional on the building being acquired for such use. A major fund-raising campaign would be needed to restore the building to its former glory and create the new Museum, which could open in five to ten years’ time. Meanwhile the Museum continues to develop its existing offer and attract increasing numbers of visitors and new members.
National Portfolio Organisation (NPO)
Over the last few years, we have been working with Salisbury Museum, Dorset County Museum and Poole Museums Service as the Wessex Museums Partnership. The Arts Council have supported the Partnership with grants to undertake activity such as marketing, development and fundraising. Our museums have now formed the Wessex Museums Trust, a charitable organisation that will support projects and developments across the Partnership.
In June 2017 the Arts Council announced that the Wessex Museums Partnership, led by Poole Museums Service, is to be one of the new National Portfolio Organisations. This means that the Partnership joins organisations such as the RSC, Punchdrunk Theatre Company and the Royal Philharmonic to deliver ‘great arts and culture for everyone’. The £1.2 million grant over four years will support outreach and exhibition projects, including a Community Curator working across Wiltshire and an Exhibitions Officer for the Museum.
2016/17 Forward Plan
The Forward Plan outlined a range of activity including the Wiltshire’s Story in 100 Objects exhibition, featuring the Lacock Cup (see page 12), the completion of the Art and Archaeology storage project, fundraising events, delivering the Wessex Museums Partnership project and developing a funding application to the Arts Council for National Portfolio Organisation status. The majority of the targets were achieved.
2017/18 Forward Plan
The main actions this year are to create a new Special Exhibition Gallery, enhance our special exhibitions programme, launch a new website and to prepare the implementation of the Wessex Museums Partnership NPO project that will begin in April 2018.
Recently found in our Library and Archive is a letter written by Cecil Chubb to Canon Goddard, President of the