Benefits promised from museum merger

BRINGING the Romans to life and exploring an Egyptian tomb are just two of the projects which it is hoped will result in a combined museums services in East Anglia.

By Andrew Clarke

BRINGING the Romans to life and exploring an Egyptian tomb are just two of the projects which it is hoped will result in a combined museums services in East Anglia.

Ipswich and Colchester are celebrating a pioneering new collaboration which they hope will invigorate both their museums and gallery services. Under the new scheme Ipswich museum will receive a new state-of-the art Egyptian gallery which will showcase their as yet unseen Egyptian collection, augmented by the loan of a mummy from the Colchester collection.

At yesterday's launch, Judy Terry and Kevin Bentley, arts and leisure portfolio holders for Ipswich and Colchester borough councils respectively, said that they were excited about creating a joint museums service and were encouraged that their groundbreaking scheme was already being studied by other authorities around the country.

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The scheme will be run by a joint museums committee comprised of councillors from both authorities as well as museum experts. Both councils will provide 50% of the financing.

Colchester's current museums chief Peter Berridge said that the only jobs that will be subject to a re- appointment interview will be those relating to senior management positions where eight current managers will be competing for seven jobs.

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He said that during the coming months new jobs would be created when the service appoints new specialist staff - an art curator, an archaeology curator, a costumes curator and a natural history curator.

He added that with Colchester and Ipswich Museum services now being one service, they would now have the ability to apply for larger grants to help reinvigorate their collections.

Mrs Terry said: “This is fantastic news for both Ipswich and Colchester but Ipswich stands to really benefit. Because of financial cuts in the late 1990s we lost our registration which meant we lost access to lots of additional money but this partnership with Colchester means that we can apply for funds which we would not otherwise have had.”

She said that the scheme was a pooling of talents, expertise and resources - although the individual councils would retain ownership or guardianship of the buildings, artefacts and art works in their care. “It's about sharing our resources and giving the public a better experience in our museums and galleries and better value for money.”

Mr Bentley said: “Not only is this a historic agreement between councils, this is a wonderful example of cross-border co-operation between Suffolk and Essex.

“Colchester is the home of Roman history in Britain and Ipswich is a leading Saxon centre, so we have a lot to offer one another.”

Mr Berridge added that the ability to attract greater funds would allow the art collection to undergo restoration when needed and for the soon-to-be appointed art curator to pursue new additions to the collection. These will be the addition of paintings by old masters like Constable and Gainsborough as well as acquiring work from contemporary artists with local connections.

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