Wakefield Museum to get ‘new lease of life’ with move

Wakefield museum, Wood St, Wakefield city centre.'w5342d121
Wakefield museum, Wood St, Wakefield city centre.'w5342d121

A NEW lease of life is just what Wakefield Museum needs according to council chiefs who approved its merger with the city’s new library this week.

The Express revealed last week that the existing museum on Wood Street was set to close in autumn to save money.

Its collections will be moved to the council’s new offices at Merchant Gate on Westgate, after a cabinet report revealed a sharp fall in visitor numbers from 30,000 to 20,000 over the last decade.

The report, which was approved on Tuesday, said more than £500,000 would need to be spent on the existing museum to make it fit for purpose.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Coun Olivia Rowley, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The report says less people are going to the museum and that’s because it’s not been renewed lately. I think a new start is what we should welcome.”

The report said the council did not have a statutory duty to provide museum services, but acknowledged they had an important role to play.

Leader of the council, Coun Peter Box, expressed concern about the amount of time between the closure of the existing museum and the opening of the new one in May.

He said: “We need to make sure we do the collections justice. More and more people are coming to Wakefield and we need to make sure they see the exhibits we have got.

“Can we look into putting some of the exhibits somewhere on a temporary basis, maybe in some other council buildings like Town Hall or County Hall subject to security?”

The Westgate offices are expected to have a footfall of 200,000 per year and the existing Grade II listed building could be leased to Wakefield College as a performing arts venue.

Exhibitions housed at the museum include the Waterton Gallery, where visitors can explore the sights and sounds of the rain forest as they enter the world of naturalist Charles Waterton, and the story of Wakefield from stone age hunters to the Westgate Run.