Items from Dewsbury Museum and Red House set for new home

Records of collections from museums across Kirklees are to be “significantly improved” over the next four years to “safeguard” thousands of historic items.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 11th April 2022, 6:00 am
The museums shut or scheduled for closure in Kirklees: Tolson, Dewsbury and Red House
The museums shut or scheduled for closure in Kirklees: Tolson, Dewsbury and Red House

The mammoth £210m “cultural heart” planned as part of the so-called Huddersfield Blueprint includes a new museum within what is currently Huddersfield Library. A new extension would house an enlarged art gallery.

Items from Tolson Museum could be transferred to the new site, along with pieces from Dewsbury Museum and Red House Museum in Gomersal, which were both closed in 2016.

Tolson Museum is also earmarked for closure and questions have been asked about what will happen to its extensive collection of artefacts.

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Two years ago Kirklees Council announced plans to streamline its collections and development policy (CDP) and said future collecting targets would be informed by the creation of the new museum in Huddersfield town centre.

It said decades of “excessive” collecting had led to storage problems amid funding cuts and reduced curatorial expertise.

The CDP review could mean a radical overhaul of those collections and a revamp of how the council manages them “through acquisition, review, significance assessment, rationalisation and disposal”.

With the axe hanging over the popular Tolson Museum, local councillor Bernard McGuin asked whether its collections have been catalogued to “help make the move” of historic items to the new site.

He is concerned that the council lacks sufficient staff to curate the vast numbers of items in its various collections, many of which are in storage and not on display.

He also expressed concern about shoehorning the contents of three museums into one consolidated site.

He said: “We were told five years ago that they were proposing to close three museums, and that if they were going to have a new museum they would have to catalogue everything and make sure it was in good order.

“I asked the question and the answer I received was very ambiguous. I’m not confident that they have made a start because I fear they don’t have the staff available to do the work. There’s been hardly any movement.”

The council’s cabinet member for culture, Coun Will Simpson, said: “In line with any Arts Council England Accredited Museum Service, Kirklees Museums and Galleries already hold substantial records relating to their collections.

“However, in order to undertake a major and complex project, such as the creation of a new museum and gallery in a new location, records need to be significantly improved in order to ensure adequate documentation to safeguard the collections.”

He said initial planning for the creation of the new museum and art gallery – including comprehensive improvement of inventory, research and documentation for relevant areas of the collection – had taken place but that it was a “preparation stage”.

Museum staff have drawn up a timetable for the work and a business case is being prepared for how much it will cost to “develop content” for the new site over the next four years.