PLANS to create a flexible learning and activity space at one of the region’s top visitor attractions, take a step forward next week.

Work is set to start on 28 May to decommission the ground floor textile gallery at Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens. This will pave the way for the development of the new space which will provide facilities for school groups, meetings, family activities and performance space later this year.

The proposals are the latest in a series of improvements at the museum aimed at attracting new visitors and encouraging more people of all ages to enjoy the museum collections.

The textiles currently on show will go into special storage where they will be carefully looked after by experts but will continue to be used for research, study and future exhibitions. The council is also contacting people who gave individual textile donations to the gallery see if they want them back.

Anyone wanting a last look at the textiles before they go into storage is advised to visit this week.

The development of the new flexible learning and performance space has been 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 earlier this year.

Fiona Brown, Executive Director of Neighbourhoods at Sunderland City Council, said: “We were delighted to hear in January that we had 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.

“The funding will create a new flexible space that will help us improve the experience for visitors by providing an exciting and changing programme of activities in and around the collections.

“Museums have to keep evolving and improving to attract new visitors and to keep people coming back time after time. That’s why the council has invested in improvements like the transformation of the shop and reception area and has pledged to continue developing the museum.

“The new enhanced space 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 everything from workshops, events and experiences to talks and performances to bring the collections to life, as well as giving us the opportunity to temporarily display some things we have in store but don’t have space to have on permanent show.”

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, said: “This is another fantastic development at the museum and underlines the incredible investment in arts and cultural activity going on across the city at the moment. It comes hot on the heels of the museum having hosted its most successful ever exhibition – Leonardo Da Vinci, A Life in Drawing and will ensure that Sunderland continues to attract major exhibitions and events to the city.”

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