Buxton Museum: ‘Reluctant’ decision is made to move out of Peak Buildings

Commitment to the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and its future in its hometown has been underlined by Derbyshire County Council’s Leader as he announced that the service will permanently move from its current base.

The decision was announced by Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis who said the authority had been left with no choice but to reluctantly relocate the council-run museum and art gallery from the town’s Peak Buildings complex following on-going building assessments. The assessments have so far revealed the potential costs and length of time which could be needed for the council to bring the building back into use as a modern day museum.

Councillor Lewis said: “While extremely sad for everyone connected to the museum in its present home, it is with great reluctance that we have to confirm it is no longer viable for the museum to operate from the Peak Buildings and a new location must be secured.”

Now the decision has been made to move the museum work will start immediately to move all artefacts, displays and artwork from the building, and when this is completed the building will be put up for sale.

The museum and art gallery has been in the Peak Buildings complex in Terrace Road since the late 1920s but last June a decision was taken to temporarily close it to the public after structural investigation work revealed dry rot in structural timbers and floor joists, making parts of the building potentially unsafe.

Councillor Lewis, who also oversees culture and tourism as part of his Cabinet role, said: “At the time we very much hoped that closing the museum would be a temporary measure, but on-going assessment work looking at the extent of the dry rot in the building, involving taking down ceilings, walls and lifting floors, is making it clear the building cannot be easily made safe for the public and staff without a programme of very costly remedial work that would take a considerable length of time. It is difficult to put a figure on this work while the assessments continue.



“Although solid progress has been made regarding our well-documented challenging budget position, we still face difficult times and must spend every penny we have wisely and with the greatest efficiency. Unfortunately we simply cannot justify spending what we know will be a large sum to return the Peak Buildings back into a useable and modern museum space.

“We also need to consider the length of time remedial work could take, which would not only leave a key, prominent building in the town empty for a considerable length of time, but also leave Buxton without a museum while we carried out the work.

“It would be far better for the building and town if the building was sold to a buyer who could invest in it and bring it back up to a high standard. This would be out of our reach as a local authority and, this way we would be able to retain the sale price and re-invest in the museum when we find a new and appropriate location.”

Councillor Lewis reiterated earlier reassurances to residents, staff, businesses and visitors to the town that the council remained fully committed to supporting the museum service and ensuring its future in Buxton for the long term.

He also said there remained a determination to see the collections displayed locally as soon as possible and plans are currently being developed for a museum service to run in the interim period before the long-term solution is secured.

The focus of this interim service will be to ensure it remains as accessible as possible, and will include a series of pop up displays and events across the county, plus an ongoing online presence. Details and dates for pop up events and other activities will be announced as soon as they are finalised. As well as using Buxton Library to house some displays, discussions are also being held with local heritage partners and the National Stone Centre in Wirksworth. The council is also looking into the potential to house The Boyd Dawkins Study Room at County Hall for a period of time.

Councillor Lewis said: “We are fully aware of the importance of the museum and art gallery in Buxton and the very high regard with which it is held by residents, visitors, businesses and groups, as well as regionally and nationally. We share the passion people have for it and continue to explore every avenue we can to secure a long-term solution.

“It’s not straightforward and was never going to happen overnight, but we’re hard at work and have been engaging with partners, including very positive discussions with High Peak Borough Council, on a range of options. I am urging local groups to fully engage and work with us on this challenge and look forward to discussions with representatives in the coming weeks so that positive solutions can be found.

“The value of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is immeasurable to local people, visitors to Buxton, wider communities and our great county, and our main goal remains to secure the long-term future of the museum in the town.”

Since the closure of the building last June, museum staff have been working hard behind the scenes on the time-consuming and complex task of packing and moving the museum collections of well over 40,000 artefacts, exhibits, exhibition cases and art works, including the entire Wonders of the Peak exhibition and the Boyd Dawkins Study Room, from the affected areas.

As part of the on-going commitment to the museum, two jobs are currently being advertised, for a new museum manager and assistant collections officer, who will help to drive the service forward and further develop the interim service.

Details of the sale of the building will be announced when they are finalised over the coming months.

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