ONE of the region’s top visitor attractions is to get a new flexible learning and performance space aimed at attracting new visitors and bringing museum collections to life.

The development at Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens is being made possible thanks to a £156,000 grant to Sunderland City Council from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Wolfson Foundation.

The funding will create a new flexible space that will improve the visitor experience by providing an exciting changing programme of activities taking place in and around the collections.

Awarding the funding, the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation expert panel praised the ambitions of the application and the ‘excellent plans for how the space will be used to enhance the experience of existing users and attract new visitors’.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism Michael Ellis, said: “Our museums and galleries are among the best in the world and we are rightly proud of these institutions. The DCMS/Wolfson Fund demonstrates how the government and philanthropic organisations can work together to boost our museum sector.

“We want people up and down the country to enjoy culture and heritage wherever they are. The 35 grants awarded today will make important contributions towards improving the visitor experience; ensuring our wonderful collections are open to as many people as possible.”

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said:
“We are delighted to provide this funding through our longstanding partnership with DCMS – an excellent example of how we as a charity can work together fruitfully with government. We are grateful to DCMS for matching our funding.

“One of the great treasures of this country is the sheer quality and range of our heritage collections – stored and displayed in wonderful museums and galleries. This funding will help to provide even better visitor experiences and greater awareness of these fascinating collections. A particular joy of this funding round has been the impressive mix of the projects supported: from a dress collection at Carlisle’s Tullie House to temporary exhibition space in Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum.”

Welcoming the announcement, Cllr John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Communities and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this funding by the DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation to help us in our long term aim of improving and developing the Museum, Library and Winter Gardens.

“Museums have to keep evolving and improving if they want to attract new visitors and to keep people coming back time after time. That’s why the council has invested in improvements in recent months with the transformation of the shop and reception area to make them more open and inviting, and has pledged to continue developing the museum.

“The new enhanced space funded by this award will be fantastic for the building. It will allow us to work with partner organisations to develop exciting activities for people of all ages from school groups, families and children to older people.

“It also means we’ll be able to look at a range of things from workshops, events and experiences to talks and performances aimed at bringing the collections to life. It will also give us the opportunity to temporarily display of some of the things we have in store but don’t have space to have on permanent show.”

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, said: “Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens is one of the top 5 most visited attractions in North East England.

“Securing external funding for each phase of the improvement works is paramount and will help to ensure the continued success of this important community asset. “

Work is expected to start on the development in mid May following on from the exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci drawings which runs from 1 Feb – 6 May 2019 and to be completed in the autumn.

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