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Friday 29th November 2013

Step Closer to Major New Historic Attraction

Photographed: Deputy Leader Cllr Peter Smith (front R) with execs and lead officers from the project partners and community reps (back)

Far left: University students / 5th from left: SWFTA Archive Director / 6th in: SWiB Archive Manager / 7th in: SWFTA Chair / 8th in: PCC Head of Economic Development / 9th in: Plymouth University Dean of Arts / 10th and 11th in: SWiB Trustees / and far right: representatives from the local heritage community. 

Plymouth is a step closer to creating a major new visitor attraction today that will proudly tell the stories of some of the city’s legends and heroes who shaped the modern world.

Early plans for the much-anticipated Plymouth History Centre have been sent to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as the first step in a bidding process that could achieve £12.5M investment for the city.

The plans outline ideas for how the city could create a historic and cultural centre that breathes life into Plymouth’s most influential historic figures such as Scott, Darwin, Reynolds and Drake, and tells some of the most fascinating and intriguing stories, relevant not only to people in the city but national and international visitors.

If successful, any funding from the HLF would be added to the £5M already committed by Plymouth City Council and work on the History Centre could begin in 2016 to create one of the largest and most impressive historic and cultural collections in the South West.

In piecing together the bid, Plymouth City Council heritage teams have been working with lead officers from the key project partners; Plymouth University, the South West Film and Television Archive and the South West Image Bank. 

Councillor Peter Smith, Deputy Leader, said: “We are really pleased to be in the running for HLF funding and we’ve made good progress since August when we first committed £5M to the History Centre, but we’ve got some way to go yet. That said, we’re really excited about our plans, which show this is so much more than a building project, although refurbishing our beautiful grade II listed buildings is part of it - it’s about creating something for the people of Plymouth and our visitors. Plymouth’s history is coming off the shelves and taking its rightful place in the very centre of our city for people to see, touch and experience.

“We want to attract more visitors, create local jobs and boost the city’s economy, as well as provide more opportunities for residents to discover the city they live in by developing a ‘not to be missed’ attraction by 2018.”

Exciting plans for the History Centre include uniting five separate heritage collections into one single location by refurbishing the listed buildings on North Hill which currently house the Museum and Central Library, plus building a brand new extension. This will create a space three times the size of the current museum.

The staggering array of historic treasures will be displayed in ‘WOW’ spaces to show off some of the most intriguing pieces, and will be brought to life with interactive displays which encourage people to explore further.

The collections will include all artefacts in the current Museum and Art Gallery, including a Beryl Cook painting and a pair of Scott’s skis; amazing images from the South West Image Bank (SWIB), footage and objects from the South West Film and Television Archives (SWFTA), including the legend that is Gus Honey Bun, and fascinating documents from the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.

The former St Luke’s Church on Tavistock place would also be restored as part of the History Centre plans. It will offer a grand and impressive space that will frequently change and could see some of the most impressive travelling national and international exhibitions visit Plymouth.

The results of the first stage of the HLF bid will be decided in May 2014 and if successful, Plymouth’s History Centre would go through to the second round in May 2015. Final funding awards will be decided by August 2015.

Leader of the Labour-led Council, Councillor Tudor Evans, said: “The Plymouth History Centre will be a place, no, a community for people of all ages and backgrounds, who will flock to see its fascinating collections, hear its incredible stories and enjoy its unique atmosphere. It will be a regular haunt for students to research and study, a must-see for tourists, a mainstay for local families looking for adventure and fun, and an irresistible magnet for history and art-lovers. It will celebrate and save our heritage, bringing legends to life and instilling pride in our past, present and future. It will create jobs for local people, attract visitors to the city and benefit the local economy enormously. There may be 52 Plymouths worldwide but we are the original and we’re staking our claim with the help of this city’s heroes and legends!”

Professor Dafydd Moore, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, said: “Plymouth has always been a gateway to the world. We have a rich and diverse heritage, reflected in our unique relationship with the sea, exploration and strong maritime connections. With its exceptional location and natural environment combined with varied social and economic events, Plymouth has played a pivotal role over centuries. From Drake to Astor, Plymouth has been the backdrop for defining historical events, such as the sailing of the Mayflower, Brunel’s feats of engineering or the rebuilding of the city after World War II. The History Centre will draw together five separate heritage collections, with national significance, consolidating them into one very special experience for residents and visitors to Plymouth.”

David Buckingham, Chair of the Plymouth Barbican Trust of which SWIB is part of, said: "The development of the History Centre is vital to preserving and promoting Plymouth's heritage and culture. Combining our precious collections under one roof is an exciting prospect and will make accessing the city's fantastic artefacts far easier and more appealing. It's a chance to create something really special that will draw visitors and better connect with local people to discover Plymouth's impressive history."

David Beadel, Chairman of SWFTA, said: “SWFTA is thrilled to be a partner in the History Centre and our hopes for the future are very much invested in its creation. It is so vitally important to preserving our incredible collections, but also in changing the way people view and perceive our city past and present. All those involved are determined this won’t simply be a building in which to store things, it will be a place people will want to visit again and again to experience Plymouth’s history and heritage. It will breathe life into the city’s wonderful collections and our films will provide some of the footage to tell our fantastic stories.”

To make the History Centre a truly community-led attraction, the Council and partners will be holding more consultation and engagement with the public to gather ideas and gain feedback to early plans. More events like the Pop-up Museum, which took place in Drake’s Circus Mall last month and attracted over 3,000 visitors, will take place giving people the chance to get involved.

Read more of this story here.

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