Eastleigh Museum will close its doors to the public from Friday 1 April while long-term plans are explored
The town centre museum is operated as a partnership between One Community, charity Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT), Hampshire County Council and Eastleigh Borough Council and is currently staffed by volunteers from One Community, who use it as a central access point on the high street for its outreach services. Hampshire Cultural Trust manages the collections relating to the town’s history at the museum, as well as hosting a programme of exhibitions. The decision to close the museum has been taken following the relocation of One Community’s services to the Flourish shop in Eastleigh’s Swan Centre.
While the museum is closed, Hampshire Cultural Trust will continue to work with community representatives on its Story Group project. The project, which has been running for 12 months, has been set up to seek the voices of the local community on how the museum could be the focal point in the town where stories about the local area and its people could be showcased. Through work already undertaken on the project, the story group’s focus is on the development of a series of exhibitions, which would be co-curated by the community for the community.
Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust, commented: ‘Following One Community’s exit, we are unfortunately not in a financial position to support staffing the museum and front-of-house running costs with the venue in its current form, as revenue from the existing shop and café is not sufficient to support the operations. We do however believe that a more resilient model can be achieved, subject to redevelopment of the museum offer and space to attract more customers, along with a longer-term assurance of local authority funding. We are in discussions with both Eastleigh Borough Council and Hampshire County Council regarding our plans. Whilst there are currently no firm plans for the museum to re-open to the public, if we are able to agree a sustainable model for the museum going forward, we would like to re-open later in the year on a reduced hours basis whilst we fundraise and plan for a capital redevelopment.
‘For some time we have recognised that the museum needs updating and our preferred route would be to undertake a redevelopment project, opening up its frontage to make it more accessible and inviting, investing in the café and shop and continuing our work with community groups to reimagine the museum offer. This model would be similar to projects that we have undertaken at other venues that we manage in the county, such as The Arc in Winchester and Gosport Museum and Gallery in Gosport, where we have support from multiple funders including Arts Council England, borough councils and Hampshire County Council, as well as investing ourselves. We are committed to doing the same for Eastleigh if we can find a long-term solution.
‘In the short term, we are very pleased that the story group project will be able to continue, if behind closed doors, and our vision is for the museum to have a community use in the future. Culture on the high street is essential to the community and economic health of any town or city and with a sustainable model and the right funding support, we see Eastleigh Museum as a major attractor for visitors to the high street, a centre where the community can come together and a draw for investment that will have a knock-on effect both for the high street economy and for the town as a whole.’