THE future of an ambitious cultural hub in Swindon has been placed in the hands of art lovers, schools and museum goers.
A survey has been launched inviting the public to share their views on a new and improved Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to be located in the town centre.
The £19m project would see the venue’s extensive art collection given the prominence it deserves and include education rooms, a cafe and dedicated galleries for temporary exhibitions.
The museum team and local authority are keen to mould the new art and heritage centre to the specific needs and wishes of the community.
Helen Miah, commissioner for leisure, libraries and culture at Swindon Council, said: “It’s about assessing what people would like to see in the new museum and what they like about the existing one. What we want to do is create a museum and art gallery that meets the needs of people in Swindon and becomes a tourist destination.
“There have been people doing exit surveys at the museum and people going out on the streets. This is going to be transformative and it’s a huge step. We are going for a proper 21st century centre. At the moment we are completely limited in terms of what we can do at the museum and gallery, so it’s very exciting for us.”
The results of the survey will also be included in the local authority’s bid to secure £9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will be submitted in November.
So far the council has pledged £5m toward the state-of-the-art museum. The project has also received £95,000 from the Arts Council and a further £5m is expected to come from benefactors.
The art museum would be the centrepiece of a new cultural quarter, located close to the magistrates’ court in the town centre.
Swindon Heritage Board chairman Coun David Renard said: “The main focus will be on the art collection. We can only display 10 per cent of what we currently have. Apsley House is inadequate to display it.
“We also need education rooms so that schools come to the museum and we need galleries for visiting collections.
“This project is integral to our town centre redevelopment and it has to be something that will become integral to people’s lives in Swindon and that attracts people to Swindon.
“The survey will help us shape not only the bid but eventually the building and what is in it.”