Aldeburgh Museum announces £800k Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment for Moot Hall - including virtual reality!
PUBLISHED: 12:33 14 January 2017
Suffolk’s rich coastal heritage could be brought to life using virtual reality and an £800,000 revamp of one of Britain’s longest-serving town halls.
Aldeburgh Museum has been awarded an initial £77,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to begin a comprehensive redevelopment of the 16th Century Moot Hall, where it is housed.
Project leaders will soon start work on the proposals, setting out major improvements to the presentation of its collections, to “significantly enhance the visitor experience” before applying for a full grant of around £800,000.
As the home to Aldeburgh Town Council, the timber-framed Grade I-listed hall is one of Britain’s oldest buildings to be used continuously for its original purpose of local governance.
It also houses Roman and Anglo Saxon archeological artefacts, records from the Tudor period, when it was built, and celebrates the lives of famous figures, such as Benjamin Britten, who set his opera Peter Grimes there, and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the pioneering physician, political campaigner, and first female Aldeburgh mayor.
Tony Bone, Aldeburgh Museum Trustees’ chairman, said the new funding was the “realisation of a dream” to make the building “fit for the 21st Century”.
“The HLF funding will enable us to realise our vision to be an inspiring and progressive local museum which actively engages all age groups with the rich heritage of Aldeburgh and its surroundings,” he added.
Working with Aldeburgh Town Council, Mr Bone said the museum aimed to create a “truly absorbing visitor experience and successful heritage destination”.
A project manager will be appointed to improve the presentation of collections.
Taking inspiration from Colchester Castle Museum, the trustees hope to use digital technology and virtual reality to overcome “severe space limitations” and transform the ground floor of the Moot Hall into the shops that once served the town.
“We even plan to have drone views of what the streets and marketplace around the Moot Hall would have looked like in Tudor times,” Mr Bone added.
Aldeburgh mayor John Digby said the town council was “delighted” to be working with the trustees to better showcase the building, its artefacts and the town’s history.
“Together we are ready to undertake the considerable work involved to bring a successful project to fruition,” he added.
The collections will document Aldeburgh’s development from an obscure fishing village into a flourishing shipbuilding and trading centre, and later a celebrated seaside resort, home to a vibrant and eclectic artistic and literary community.
Mr Bone said it would feature everything from “wars and pirates, civil unrest and famine, and witches” as well as local governance, the battle against coastal erosion and the renowned Garrett Anderson family.
Having approved the first round funding application, the HLF will be presented with more detailed proposals, which should be approved so long as they meet initial objectives.
Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said the Moot Hall and its collections represented a “visually captivating and historically significant part of Aldeburgh”, but were “currently not getting the attention they deserve”.
She added: “This project aims to change that – bringing more visitors through its doors and using digital technology to overcome space limitations and allow even more stories to be told.
“This is an exciting first step and we’re pleased to support these plans thanks to money raised by National Lottery players and look forward to its bright future.”