Redoubt and New Museum update
As you know, the last 9 or so months have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Heritage Eastbourne, with the award of HLF funding then the very disappointing survey results for the Redoubt leading to a major rethink of what we do and how we do it.
Is the Redoubt closing at the end of 2016?
The Redoubt will be closing as usual in mid-November 2016 and will be re-opening in mid-March 2017. The museum collections will all be removed by the time we re-open and the building will begin to be displayed as a fortress and conservation project with interactive exhibits, building trails and reconstructed areas.
Why are the collections being removed?
All museum collections are being removed from the Redoubt as the environmental conditions have become so bad that objects are beginning to be damaged. We can no longer hope for a solution to the problem of creating museum conditions within the building with a figure of over £12 million needed for repairs that would probably not work or even be allowed by Historic England. We have worked with the Army Museums Ogilby Trust (AMOT) and the Trustees of the collections and all are now in agreement that the Fortress is no longer fit for purpose as a museum and our priority must be the long term care of the collections.
Where are the collections going?
The Eastbourne Military Collection has been removed and is now in store with our other collections at the Town Hall. The Queens Royal Irish Hussars (QRIH) Collection is being removed to its new home in Warwick, as has been planned by them for quite some time. The Royal Sussex (RSR) and Sussex Combined Services Collections (SCS) will be packed and removed this winter to a storage facility with the help and advice from AMOT.
Is a new Museum being built and if so where?
A new purpose built museum is currently being designed and will be built adjacent to the Redoubt in the area currently occupied by the Pavilion tea room and exhibition. It is being funded by Eastbourne Borough Council and it is intended that building works will start in late 2017 or early 2018.
What will be in the new museum?
The new museum will house a permanent exhibition of the real history of Eastbourne starting back in geological time. It will cover all periods and will explore stories from all over our collecting area, so not just Eastbourne (north to Hailsham, east to Pevensey and west to the Cuckmere). There will also be space for temporary exhibitions, a café, shop and classroom facilities.
Why can’t the military collections go in the new museum?
Firstly, where the military collections are relevant we would love to show them in the new museum. We will obviously feature stories and artefacts relating to the military that are important to our collecting area and to those people locally who were in the services including WW1 and WW2. We will use some of our collection for this but hope that the RSR and the SCS will loan us relevant items as well. Secondly extensive public consultation and also the HLF, Arts Council and Historic England all agree that Eastbourne deserves a museum that tells its whole story not just a military one.
What will happen to the Redoubt?
The Redoubt and the new museum will be physically linked (by means of a lift and staircase) but also intrinsically linked in that the Redoubt will be part of the overall experience. This will become the ‘heritage hub’ that we have been looking to build for some time. The Redoubt will be restored as a historic building, a C19th castle for Eastbourne, featuring recreated rooms and areas as they would have been in the past without having to achieve the very specific environmental conditions needed for museum collections. It will be an exciting, living building with interactive exhibits free of the constraints necessary in museums so handling reproduction objects will very much be encouraged! We will also be looking at ways of building on the Café offer and also at the uses of some Casemates for film screenings, talks, functions and even possibly as workshops.
When will all this happen?
Obviously we have a lot of work to do and the planned project will take some time but it is envisaged that the works to the new museum and Redoubt will be complete by 2019. During this time we will endeavour to always keep some aspect of the building open for public access but obviously there will be times when this may not be possible. We will also make sure to continue to engage with the community at large by means of events, outreach and if possible exhibitions.