Ipswich Museum is one of the best-loved buildings in Ipswich. It was purpose-built in High Street by the Ipswich Corporation in 1881, having out-grown its first premises in what is now Arlingtons restaurant in Museum Street.
The museum was set up with the specific aim of public education in the arts, sciences, and learning, and its story is bound up with great Ipswich characters, like George Ransome, Charles Darwin’s tutor Professor John Stevens Henslow, and the archaeologists Nina Layard and Basil Brown.
Its collections span natural history, geology, archaeology, and world cultures. Some, like the Ogilvie bird collection are of national importance. The art collection, including works by Suffolk artists like John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, Anna Airy and many others, are mainly displayed in Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich Art Gallery.
Over the past 150 years Ipswich Museum has developed and changed, and we now are about to submit plans to the Heritage Lottery Fund for improvements to the building which would give us more exhibition space, a new café, and the basement turned into new toilets and a cloakroom.
The iconic natural history gallery will be largely unchanged, with Rosie the Rhino still greeting visitors as they enter, while Wool-i-am the mammoth gets a new room to himself. The new conservation laboratory will allow visitors to see the fascinating work being carried out. In all there will be nine new galleries and an audio-visual space.
The ground floor will be levelled so people can move easily around the building, with the ability to display items under a transparent tiled floor. An activity programme is central to our bid – involving more Ipswich people in the Museum and offering new volunteering opportunities.
The over-arching theme of our bid is to ‘Pride in Ipswich’. The Museum is an institution we can all rightly be proud of, and if we are successful in our bid, the refurbished Museum will give us the opportunity to expand our knowledge and understanding of both the museum’s collections and our town.
I am grateful to everyone involved in drawing up these inspiring plans, and to the Friends of Ipswich Museums who have been steadfast supporters of the project.