History in the making

The Birmingham Mail has reported on £107k cash boost for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery plan with the Heritage Lottery Fund awarding £107,000 to BMAG to help develop its plans for new displays of local history.

Image reproduced from http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk and Birmingham Mail courtessy of BMAG.

The award marks the BMAG's first stage in it's bid to raise £5 million from the fund towards the £7.9 million cost of it's Birmingham - A City in the Making project. The project aims to redisplay and reinterpret the museum's Birmingham history collections in 1,000sq m of space in a wing of refurbished galleries.

It will meet public demand for more emphasis on Birmingham history at BMAG, presenting the city’s history in its national and global context.
Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals.

The funding follows BMAG receiving a grant of £300,000 in August, the largest of 31 grants to museums and galleries around England from the £4 million Wolfson Fund, for a new gallery which will focus on Birmingham History from 1700 to 1830. The funding was a major part of the £1,813,000 funding needed to get the new Birmingham history display off the ground (http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2008/08/27/birmingham-museum-grant-will-fund-city-history-exhibit-65233-21622441/).

The plans for the Birmingham gallery are part of a longer 20 year plan and vision for the development of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which was outlined in a report from the Director of Leisure, Sport & Culture to the City Council cabinet on the 25 June 2007.

Image reproduced courtessy of rudolf_schuba, http://flickr.com/photos/rudolf_schuba/.

The report to Cabinet outlined the capital cost of implementing Phase 2 of the BMAG 20 Year Plan at an estimated £13.41m. The Phase 2 works proposed are concerned primarily with the refurbishment of existing exhibition galleries, rather than the creation of new spaces.

The report outlines the phase will produce:
• 1,040 sq m of new Birmingham history galleries and exhibition spaces
• restoration and refurbishment of areas of the roof and fabric, including reinstatement of a roof dome damaged during the second World War.
• Restoration/re-instatement of original interior decorative elements and gallery rooflights
• Improved lighting of galleries and public spaces.

The works will also include the complete internal and external
renovation of the roof to its original design (reversing poor quality alterations made as a result of bomb damage suffered during the Second World War) together with the restoration of a roof dome and interior refurbishment works at 1st floor level which would significantly enhance a key route through to the new galleries.

The restoration of the dome is shown on the image below.

The wider developments through the 20 year plan are reproduced below from Appendix 3 - Summary of 20 Year Plan of the Director of Leisure, Sport and Culture's report to Cabinet, BMAG PROPOSED HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND APPLICATION AND OUTLINE BUSINESS CASE.

The overall 20 Year Plan has been developed by a design team with the architects John Miller + Partners in conjunction with Sidell Gibson Architects as the lead consultants. The plan comprises a set of discreet ‘packages’ of development works. These are not intended to be sequential, each is designed to be feasible to carry out as a stand alone development as and when funding allows. Sidell Gibson's proposals suggest a total cost of approx £50m.

Images from Sidell Gibson's proposals are shown below.


As the proposals from Sidell Gibson show there are ideas to deal with the issue of connectivity such as a new bridge and opportunities for new gallery space by using internal courtyards.

o The 20 Year Plan provides an opportunity for planning and implementing major improvements to the circulation and layout of the buildings.
o The introduction of a second glazed ‘stained glass’ bridge spanning Edmund Street at first floor level would greatly improve circulation.
o The Council House Extension building has six internal courtyards, which are a considerable asset. With minimal disturbance to fabric they offer great potential to provide additional gallery space as well as contribute to bringing clearer circulation routes.
o There is also the possibility of one or two of the courtyards being conceived of as winter gardens with generous toplights, providing space for a café and public lifts.

The 20 year plan proposed four schemes. The report to the Cabinet recommended Scheme 1 as the preferred option. The key elements from this scheme are shown below:

Improved visitor access to BM&AG via Chamberlain Square entrance
• Sensitive adaptation of the main entrance to BM&AG through creation of an access ramp at street level (to overcome the current barrier to entering the building at this point presented by the steps for wheelchair users etc).
• Installation of a new passenger lift set back into the main entrance portico and rising up from here to enable visitors to arrive in the lobby to the Round Room. On arrival into this space, visitors would be able to enter the Round Room and be able to view along one axis – across the existing internal bridge spanning/above Edmund Street the vista of the new Sculpture Court; and along another axis – the existing ‘Industrial Gallery’ of applied art and the Buddha Gallery beyond.

Creation of new galleries and visitor facilities
• Throughout the site, creation of 2275 sq m of new galleries through utilisation of
existing courtyards (not currently part of BM&AG’s existing internal gallery spaces/public facilities) and reconfiguration/redisplay of current galleries. This would enable a greater breadth of BMAG’s significant collections to be shown. The new displays would encompass more material from the extensive collections of fine and applied art and ethnography; Egyptian, Greek , Roman and Middle Eastern antiquities; Birmingham history collections; a new costume and fashion gallery would be created. Dramatic spaces for Fine Art, especially 20th and 21st century collections and notably for sculpture through the creation of a dramatic top lit Sculpture Court would be created. In addition, access to works on paper collections would be provided.
• A café/restaurant would be re-located to one of the top lit courtyard spaces.

Improved visitor orientation and circulation
Visitor orientation and circulation throughout the site would be improved through a range of developments:
• Construction of a second bridge over Edmund Street would allow a complete circuit of the building on the primary floor.
• An additional lift and stairs to connect the Water Hall with the first floor galleries and Industrial gallery balcony together with the second bridge, and use of the courtyard spaces would enable more coherent access throughout the building and resolve current problems of multiple entrances and disjointed layout.

The changes above can be achieved incrementally through several building “packages” to be phased according to priorities and funding over 20 years.

The continued development of the Museum and Art Gallery should continue to attract visitors and encourage more local engagement with the collections. BMAG attracted approx 540,000 visitors during 2006-07, 30% of whom were new visitors from MORI Exit Poll 2006. The developments should also support major exhibitions which attract large numbers of visitors with the Turner's Britain exhibition in 2003/04 attracting 75% of it's visitors from outside Birmingham and contributing around £1.5m of economic impact.


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