Heritage hub work to move into top gear to convert Ipswich Museum into the IAM project

A line drawing showing how the new museum hub could look after work is complete.

A line drawing showing how the new museum hub could look after work is complete. - Credit: Archant

Work to create a £23 million cultural and heritage hub for Suffolk are moving up a gear this year.

Ipswich Museum in the town’s High Street is at the heart of an ambitious project that would put the county on the heritage map – and show the importance of Anglo Saxon culture in the creation of England.

The project would link the historic museum with the High Street art gallery, the Ipswich Art School and the Wolsey Studio Theatre to create a new cultural centre under the banner IAM – Ipswich Art and Museums.

The project would hugely increase public access to one of the most important collections of Anglo-Saxon treasures in the country.

At present only about 10% of the museum’s collection is on show. If the project is completed, the public will have access to 60% of the collection – with 30% on show at any one time.

The museum is owned by Ipswich Council which is preparing a bid for £4.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The council itself has pledged £1.25 million to the redevelopment, and is also hoping to get substantial capital funding from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the Arts Council.

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The remainder of the money would have to come from large donations from companies and philanthropists – leading fundraising experts Craigmyle have been signed up to find money for the project.

The HLF application is to be submitted this year – there are several funding rounds and the exact timing of the application will depend on talks between the borough and lottery officials.

However officials at the borough are hoping the work on site should start during the second part of 2017 and the new cultural hub should be open to the public in 2019.

The redeveloped cultural centre would have regional significance, and staff at Ipswich hope it would be possible to link up with the National Trust at Sutton Hoo – Ipswich Museum archaeologist Basil Brown led the dig that uncovered the burial ship.

Ipswich council cultural spokeswoman Bryony Rudkin said the plans for the museum were very important for the whole region.

She said: “This is a very exciting proposal, not just for the town and the county but for the whole of East Anglia – we would create something here that would attract visitors from a wide area.

“We are really lucky to have such wonderful buildings beside each other, but what we do need to do is to bring them together to create a really superb heritage and cultural centre.”

The borough’s executive will be asked to approve the lottery bid when it meets next week – but that is expected to be a formality.

That decision will also be the green light for the fundraisers to start the search for substantial donors to get the project under way.

Mrs Rudkin said: “The fundraising team are confident they will be able to find the money we need. We managed to find support for the Dance House and they have experience of major projects like the National Horseracing Museum so we are very hopeful.”