Museum director James Webb, said it had been a journey of discovery and surprises adding, “The building has shown itself to be alive with history – all of which is now uncovered and preserved for future generations.”
The extensive project, which began a year ago, saw Dorset-based Greendale Construction tasked with a variety of works ranging from minor refurbishment in some areas, to a full strip-out and redecoration in others.
Major changes include a new museum entrance, and a combined visitor reception, shop and information centre.
Works over the past 12 months have transformed the facilities, exhibition spaces and access, with new staircases, refurbished or new doors and partition glazed screens installed, and services upgraded. A new platform lift and ramps will allow access to the upper galleries for all for the first time.
A key objective of the revival project was to preserve and conserve the fabric of the historic townhouse, parts of which date back to the late-Elizabethan period. Unsympathetic modern building aspects have been removed to reveal historic features and visitors will now be able to see how different generations left their marks on the house as fashions changed.
David Morgan, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, “My heartfelt thanks go to all those involved in helping us arrive at this point, from the volunteers who painstakingly removed and recorded every object from our displays before they went into storage, to Greendale Construction for their expertise and dedication over the past year, and to all those from the community who are helping us now to create the new exhibition and display spaces.
“The completion of this restoration brings us closer to delivering our ambitious revival plans for this incredible building, making it a fitting place to celebrate and share East Dorset’s heritage in a way that is accessible and enjoyable for all.”
Whilst the museum will not reopen until later in the year, visitors will be able to see some of the transformation when the Information Centre opens on 20 July with a grand reopening planned later this year.
The £1.6m revival project is being made possible by a £982,200 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, along with partnership funding from trusts, foundations, local councils, businesses and members of the local community. The next phase of work on the Grade II* listed building is now underway.
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