Plans for Suffolk’s heritage services to be discussed

 

Proposals to secure the future of Suffolk’s heritage services will be discussed by Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet when it meets on Tuesday 8 November 2011.

Cabinet members will be asked to grant permission for the county council, in partnership with The Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL), to develop a full business case supporting the creation of a new organisation which would run the archaeology and archive services currently provided by the council.

If given eventual approval, an integrated archaeology, archives and museum organisation would secure the future of Suffolk's heritage sector and open the door to new additional sources of funding, provide greater public access and increase the rate of digitisation of its collections.

 

Research conducted by The National Archives shows that larger heritage services can respond more effectively to challenges and opportunities. Working with MEAL would bring together collections, facilities and staff expertise to create a larger, more integrated and sustainable organisation.

 

The new organisation would work in partnership, not competition, with other Suffolk organisations to make Suffolk’s rich heritage more accessible to the public.

 

Action is needed because storage space at Suffolk’s three records offices in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft will reach full capacity by 2016. Buildings storing archaeological finds need to be updated to meet the latest standards.

 

Alongside the development of the full business case, the county council and MEAL would also investigate the feasibility of developing a main heritage centre for Suffolk’s archives, finds and artefacts - with greater outreach activities at locations across Suffolk. This would make services more accessible for customers. No decisions have been taken on the service’s existing buildings.

 

Councillor Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder with responsibility for archaeology, said:

 

“Suffolk has a rich and varied past and being able to safeguard this for future generations is important. The current storage for the archaeology collections does not meet national standards and does not provide display space. 

 

“Therefore, much of our valued archaeology is inaccessible to the public. I want to change that.”

 

Councillor Kathy Gosling, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for sport, culture, diversity, health and wellbeing, said:

 

“People from Suffolk and across the country enjoy and value the services we offer and we want to make sure that this service is enhanced. With our current archives facilities due to reach full capacity by 2016 we must act now to identify a solution for the future.

 

“This proposed new organisation would raise Suffolk’s profile and would help to safeguard its archive and archaeology for the future by creating a partnership to promote Suffolk’s heritage, history and sense of place.“

 

Organisations and people directly involved in the service were consulted on the proposals in September. Three sessions were organised in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft. County council officials also shared the plans with the Friends of Suffolk Record Office at their annual general meeting.

 

MEAL’s board will consider the proposal in November. If both Cabinet and MEAL agree to continue developing this proposal, the full business case would be considered by both parties in spring 2012. It is hoped that the new organisation could be established in April 2012 with services and staff transferring to the new organisation by September 2012.

By Jo Howard on November 4th, 2011

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