Volunteers happy to see the Surrey Heath Museum re-open

Surrey Heath Museum is now open in its new location in Camberley’s Square. It’s co-located with the Heritage Gallery in Obelisk Street, next to its entrance onto Park Street.

At the opening ceremony last Friday Gillian Riding, Museum Heritage Officer – curator really, welcomed over 50 museum volunteers and supporters to the re-opening at its new home. Many of whom spilled out of the crowded museum, and listened firstly to Gillian, then Phil Stevens, doyen of the heritage scene in Surrey Heath, and finally to our MP Rt Hon Michael Gove, before Phil and Michael cut the ribbon to officially open the new Museum.

The Heritage Gallery, previously occupying the ground floor is now entirely located upstairs. It’ll be interesting to see how the Museum and Heritage gallery develop together, and how the museum develops, now that it has the potential for greater visitor numbers being in a shopping arcade. I wish it a happy and fulfilling future. Meanwhile, here are a few photos of the event, and a short video of the opening ceremony.

A new home for Surrey Heath Museum

Surrey Heath Borough Council has announced a new home for its museum

Surrey Heath Museum is to become part of a new ‘Heritage Hub’ in the centre of Camberley, due to open in June. 

The Museum will join with Surrey Heath Museum Action Group and Surrey Heath Archaeology Trust to create the hub in the Heritage Gallery of The Square shopping centre.  

The museum space, on the ground floor, will involve a ‘mini museum’ display, recreations of a WWI and WWII home, and include a shop and research area. 

There will also be a temporary exhibition area – planned exhibitions include ‘What Lies Beneath’ (June to September), followed by ‘The Battles of the First World War’ (October to December).  

The existing Heritage Gallery will move to the upper floor, with displays for local groups and societies.  
Heritage staff will be frequently present and available at the new hub.   

The existing Heritage Gallery unit is currently closed for this transformation to take place, and will reopen on Saturday 30 June. 
This will coincide with Camfest, the community arts and crafts festival organised by the Camberley Society which runs from 29 June to 1 July.  

Surrey Heath Heritage Services are holding a public meeting where they invite members of the public to come along and find out more about plans for the refreshed Heritage Service on Thursday 24 May at Camberley Theatre at 7pm. All welcome! 

News of Surrey Heath Museum’s involvement in the ‘Heritage Hub’ follows the decision taken by the Council’s Executive earlier this year to adopt changes proposed for Surrey Heath Heritage Services.   

This followed a consultation about the future of Surrey Heath Museum and Heritage Services, which ran for several months at the end of last year. 
Feedback included the view that the previous museum site at Surrey Heath House on Knoll Road, Camberley was not in the right location. 

This site was subsequently closed to the public in mid-April, with plans for the future development of the service to include more temporary exhibitions and events at different locations around the Borough – bringing heritage into the heart of our community, and helping reach new and wider audiences across Surrey Heath and beyond.    

These include plans for a Heritage Services display in the Main Square of The Square during the summer, and a Surrey Heath Museum ‘showcase area’ in Camberley Library from July. 
As a result of these changes, research enquiries will be put on hold until June 2018. 

The museum’s popular events programme will continue, including toddler/children’s holiday sessions, to be held in the Heritage Hub, and heritage walks. The popular Reminiscence and Education Programme also goes from strength to strength. 
More info: www.surreyheath.gov.uk/museum 

Surrey Heath Museum to close after Easter

Over 30 interested and concerned residents were in attendance at a meeting of the Executive Committee of Surrey Heath Borough Council on Tuesday 6th March, where the future of Surrey Heath Heritage Services was discussed.

The plans for the future, as described in the council press release below, does not include a museum. While not stating the word closure, it says, “Whilst we will not be operating our museum service from the current site after the Easter holiday”, which means the same thing.

I’ll write more about the council’s decision in the coming days and weeks. My photo of one the many successful Museum exhibitions.

At a meeting of the Executive of Surrey Heath Borough Council last night (Tuesday 6 March) Councillors voted to adopt the changes proposed for Surrey Heath Heritage Services.  This followed a consultation about the future of Surrey Heath Museum and Heritage Services, which ran for several months at the end of last year.

The Council engaged with a wide variety of community groups and individuals, receiving more than 400 responses.  Feedback from regular museum visitors and local historical societies as part of the User Group discussion process confirmed the view that the museum is not in the right location. This was supported by declining visitor numbers to the premises at Surrey Heath House, Camberley, which was launched as a temporary site in 1986.

Feedback from the consultation has informed plans for the future of Heritage Services which include expanding the existing programme of events, workshops, walks and talks, outreach work with schools and other community groups and research.

Whilst we will not be operating our museum service from the current site after the Easter holidays, the Executive also approved proposals for further development of the service to include an improved online catalogue of the collection, a display in reception at Surrey Heath House; more temporary exhibitions and events at different locations around the Borough, and an extended exhibition in Camberley Town Centre throughout the summer – bringing heritage into the heart of our community, and helping reach new and wider audiences across Surrey Heath and beyond.

Surrey Heath Borough Council will continue to strive for Arts Council Accreditation for the collection, and is delighted that the mission statement which is essential to this process was unanimously agreed by the Executive:  “Surrey Heath Heritage Services exist to preserve, manage and document the heritage of this Borough. We will promote our unique heritage by public exhibitions, events, outreach and research access.”

Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Business Cllr Craig Fennell said: “The history of this Borough remains of paramount importance but we must stay relevant to what future generations want from a heritage service, and continue to reach a wider community.  These proposals will breathe new life into the service – the thousands of artefacts in the collection will tell the story of our past to current and future generations, enabling a wider audience to enjoy smaller, more frequent exhibitions in easy-to-access locations.”

More information about upcoming exhibitions and events will be available on our website.  www.surreyheath.gov.uk/museum 

Surrey Heath Council update on its museum

Surrey Heath Borough Council has released an update on the future of Surrey Heath Museum, notice how the press release uses the word heritage services in place of Surrey Heath Museum. It’ll be interesting to see the report to be submitted to the Council’s Executive committee whether there’s  an  increase in funding for the Museum’s services to deliver a proper digital archive, or whether it’s an exercise in funding reduction. Here’s the Council press release,

Following the recent public consultation held regarding the future of Heritage Services in Surrey Heath, which closed at the end of December 2017, the results and feedback are currently being collated and reviewed, and the resulting report will go before the Council’s Executive in due course.

The consultation’s aim was to help Surrey Heath Borough Council develop plans to make its heritage service more accessible to the Borough’s residents and visitors.

The area’s heritage collection, like many similar collections across the country, includes thousands of artefacts and archives, and helps tell the story of the rich heritage of the area. These stores are currently based at Surrey Heath Museum in Surrey Heath House, Camberley.

However, much of the collection remains in storage for the majority of the time, so future plans could involve ‘taking the heritage to the people’ rather than relying on the public to visit a single physical location.

Since 2013, museum staff have been working with a committed group of volunteers to audit this collection and place it onto a database, with the aim of improving access to the collections, and future plans to make the collection available online.

This work has been invaluable in working towards Arts Council Accreditation so that the entire collection is formally recognised.

A discussion group with key stakeholders was also set up by the Council to engage and consult on future plans with those who are passionate about the area’s heritage. Members from a variety of local societies sit on the group, which is developing its own role, providing ongoing support and advice for heritage work.

While the consultation was running, the permanent collection remained on display at the museum, along with ‘Storetastic’, a display of fascinating items from the Museum’s stores. Current outreach programmes such as schools’ workshops and reminiscence sessions, family activities, local history talks and walks also continue.

The Museum is currently closed, but will reopen with its next exhibition, ‘War & Peace – the work of War Photographer and Artist, Kevin Weaver’ on February 1st. www.surreyheath.gov.uk/museum

Your opinions are needed to help Surrey Heath Museum

I wonder how many of you, dear readers, noticed that my four Museum Monday articles didn’t include Surrey Heath Museum?

The reason was so that I could highlight Surrey Heath Borough Council’s lack of ambition and support for its museum service. What I’d like you to do, dear reader, is to complete the Council’s online consultation about the future of Surrey Heath Museum. Click on image to link to the webpage.

Earlier this year the Council announced it’s plans for the Museum. The paucity of ambition exhibited in this Council Paper, and lack of mention of any commitment to invest funds into the museum. There’s talk, and councillor support for making Surrey Heath Museum a mainly online museum. There is no mention of staffing, timescales, or funds to digitise and scan its archives. The majority of the museums collections are mouldering in storage.

My idea is the build a two/three storey heritage centre, with museum, art gallery, and education space on the land in front of Camberley Library. It’s surely possible with the support of Surrey Council, transferring France Hill Adult Education to the new centre, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council, Local Enterprise Partnership, and Surrey Heath Borough Council.

If Woking can do it with The Lightbox, why can’t we in Surrey Heath. Heck, the Council have borrowed £115 million or more to become owners of Camberley’s shopping centre.

In short, the people of Surrey Heath deserve better, since the Museum collections belong to them and they have a right to enjoy them and benefit from their tourism and educational potential.