A CENTRAL storage facility which would allow the public to access Swindon’s valuable museum’s artefacts could become a reality if the council’s bid for more than £1m Heritage Lottery funding is successful.

Swindon Council has tens of thousands of items, ranging from Roman pottery to an early model of M4 Junction 15, but most are locked away from the public gaze at several sites across the town.

The council’s heritage assets, including a range of porcelain, locomotive and archaeological collections, were valued by insurers at £33.4m in 2011/12 – up from £26.4m in 2010/11 – and the council is trying to get more value out of Swindon’s cultural and historical gems.

Now Coun Garry Perkins , cabinet member for regeneration and culture, has revealed that officers are putting together a bid to convert a disused council-owned unit, on Westmead Industrial Estate, into a facility to store most of the museum artefacts. The artworks would continue to be stored separately as they need specialist conditions.

Coun Perkins said the new facility would offer a ‘hands on’ experience for the public, and there would be an educational centre with classrooms or a lecture hall where visitors, including school children, could learn about Swindon’s history.

“I’ve dug around the stores and some of it hasn’t been moved for decades, there’s no doubt about it. “It has been put into storage and that’s where it has remained,” he said.

“It’s not really accessible, so we’d like to convert a building we own into a museum store, but also make it an educational centre, so the members of the public and students can have access to what’s there, they can see it, they can have hands on and understand the history of Swindon better.”

Coun Perkins said the council had some modern artefacts, such as a scale model of Junction 15, but also key stones from long-demolished Swindon buildings, and boxes of Roman pottery unearthed in recent years around Swindon during the construction of new homes.

He said the project had been in mind for the past 12 months and officers were working up details of how the store could be developed, pointing out it could be done in stages and multiple, smaller bids.

He hopes the first bid, or possibly the sole bid, could be submitted in the next couple of months.

He said: “If we get the bid right and we aren’t over ambitious and the whole project stands up, I would think we would definitely start ticking the boxes that we can get help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Particularly now the Olympics are finishing we start seeing Lottery money coming backing into other areas.”