by Jo Clarke, Marketing and Communications Officer

2017 is nearly over and what a year it’s been! We still got plenty of things to do when staff return from the welcome few days off they’re taking – but hopefully you’ll forgive me if I spend a few minutes reflecting on how far we’ve come during the last twelve months.

On site there’s been a huge amount of progress since our Groundbreaking Ceremony took place in January. Things began with the development of the construction site and the closing off of a section of Tavistock Place. Since then our contractors have completed their enabling works, including putting up hoardings and an extensive scaffolding scheme and adding a temporary roof to the former Central Library building.

Demolition work at the Plymouth History Centre site - 28 March 2017

The demolition of the outbuildings next to St Luke’s Church, the Museum and Art Gallery’s toilet block and the post-war extension at the back of the Library followed. They then completed a reduced level dig and piling works, took delivery of a tower crane and started pouring the concrete bases for the extensions to the main building and St Luke’s.

I’ve been trying to share as much information as possible on the blog as we’ve been going along. If you’ve missed any of our ‘Build Update’ reports during 2017 you can find them here.

Away from the construction site a huge amount of work has also been carried out in relation to our collections. This has included developing the plans, designs and scripts for the new galleries that will feature in The Box, decanting the Merchant’s House, working with other Plymouth City Council colleagues to plan for the future of the Elizabethan House and starting the analysis and restoration work for the figureheads that will come on loan to us.

Topaze figurehead being moved from the Naval Heritage Centre in Plymouth - November 2017

A great deal of work is also taking place with the collections at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, South West Film and Television Archive and South West Image Bank in preparation for their move to The Box. We’ll have lots more to share on this in the coming months.

Photograph showing between two high racks of boxes with a staff member standing at a trolley

As well as dealing with the works that are in storage, some of the Museum’s collections have gone out on loan to other venues. Locally this includes Penlee House in Penzance, Wheal Martyn in St Austell, the Cookworthy Museum in Kingsbridge, the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey, the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre in Princetown, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter and the Museum of Somerset in Taunton. Nationally it includes Two Temple Place in London and the World Museum in Liverpool. We’ve also loaned items internationally to exhibitions that are taking place in France, Germany and Japan.

Actors from the Ropewalks theatrical walking tours of the Barbican, Plymouth, UK - May 2017

……….and we can’t forget the work of our Arts and Cultural Development and Programmes Teams who are helping us to continue our service with a range of partners and venues. This has included continuing our support for the Vital Sparks bursary scheme and the city’s public art initiatives as well as delivering our ‘Museum On Tour’ programme.

I was looking through our website and the figures for ‘Museum On Tour’ are quite astonishing. As a quick overview, during 2017 we have:

    • co-ordinated the Plymouth History Festival
    • organised Local Studies Day
    • supported the Plymouth Art Weekender
    • delivered four exhibitions at the Council House highlighting the Plymouth Society of Artists, the 1950s, Beryl Cook and the destruction and reconstruction of Plymouth after the Blitz
    • supported three exhibitions at Peninsula Arts and two displays about Sir Francis Chichester
    • worked in partnership with Plymouth College of Art and Mount Edgcumbe to support the ‘Kanghyo Lee – In Performance’ event
    • worked in partnership with the Barbican Theatre and a group of young emerging professionals to develop and deliver the ‘Ropewalks’ theatrical walking tours
    • worked in partnership with 14-18 NOW and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to deliver a large proportion of the community engagement programme inspired by the ‘Poppies: WAVE’ installation (which was seen by an estimated half a million people while it was on display on The Hoe’s Naval War Memorial)
    • been one of the main partners for the city-wide ‘We The People Are The Work’ project
    • Image from a Traditional Craft Group sessionsupported the ‘Maker Memories’ project
    • launched our ‘Plymouth After Dark’ project
    • attended 12 large-scale community events
    • held 36 different family events
    • held 38 talks, tours and guided walk events
    • delivered 12 Memory Roadshows, over 20 Arts and Minds workshops and more than 40 Traditional Craft sessions

I’m sure there are things missing from this list. Given the fact that we’re in the process of delivering a multi-million pound redevelopment project I think these statistics are amazing.

I will leave you with this short video of our CEO Paul Brookes and Head of Arts and Heritage Nicola Moyle as they too think about some of the things we’ve achieved in 2017.

Hopefully you’ll agree that 2017 has been a really productive year! Best wishes for the rest of the festive break and I’ll be back with more in 2018.