Insensitive redevelopment of Ipswich Museum threatens rare survival of Victorian curation
Image Credit: Visit East of England
The Grade II listed Ipswich Museum, designed by Horace Cheston in 1880 for Ipswich Corporation, has been awarded funding of over eight million by the Lottery Fund and Ipswich Borough Council to ‘update’ the museum’s presentation. The museum is a rare example of a relatively unchanged Victorian museum. It is a time capsule into Victorian curation practices. Examples of Victorian display and categorisation in working museums are increasingly rare, the presentation of the artefacts as a whole should be considered rather than the induvidual artefacts themselves. This is completely overlooked in the developers plans. The Victorian Society has written to Ipswich Museum urging it to take a more sensitive approach to change.
Read our letter here: Ipswich Museum.pdf (victoriansociety.org.uk)
Griff Rhys Jones, Victorian Society President commented "It would be a tragic mistake to wilfully destroy the wonderful and unique Ipswich Museum. The interior is an historic artefact in its own right. To dismantle the existing collection and its display would be a disservice to the story of Ipswich. And to heritage itself. It is inconceivable that a museum should want to do this to such an artefact. Surely Ipswich Museum is a just victim of bad marketing. It stands as a perfect monument to a particular historic academic view of the world. Not "right", "wrong", morally upright or suspect, it is, objectively, what it is. If the Borough needs a new venue to house a children's interactive learning experience they should put that in a different place, with a different building. I urge the advisors on this to think again."
View the current plans for the redevelopment here: Ipswich Museum Re-development | Ipswich Museums (cimuseums.org.uk)
Connor McNeill, Victorian Society caseworker, said: ‘Ipswich Museum’s natural history gallery is a rare survival of a Victorian Museum interior, with its cast-iron gallery and display cases showcasing dioramas of rare stuffed animals. It is valuable for communicating the history of British 19th century collecting and curating. The recently released visualisations show that, while the important historic fittings will be retained, the space’s character and Victorian ambience will be lost. We urge the Museum to devise a decorative scheme that will preserve the space’s special Victorian character. The public outcry against the changes in the visualisation show just how valued and special this ambiance is. The Museum should make every effort to retain it.’
Sign the petition against the plans here: Petition Stop proposed changes to Ipswich Museum Change.org