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Museum Redevelopment Update

Feeling like a lifetime ago now, 2019 ended on a satisfying note for the project to redevelop Glencoe Folk Museum. In December we submitted a stage one bid for funding, from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s (NLHF) ‘Grants For Heritage’ programme, to cover more than half the projected £1m total project cost.

Formed from consultations with visitors and the local community, the redevelopment would be the greatest transformation of the Museum since moving into its current premises in 1972 – exciting! (Find out more here) Having the Lottery funding in place would help us unlock the remaining sum required from other grant bodies, complemented by revenue from kind public donations as part of our new ‘Adopt An Object’ scheme. As the year drew to a close we were confident we had submitted a strong bid and were likely to be successful.

A new business plan as well as outline exhibition plans, briefs for architects and museum designers and a recruitment drive for new trustees to support the redevelopment were all prepared and ready to deploy, and the Museum eagerly awaited making real progress with the project in the new year…

…and then 2020 happened.

Photo by Emily Nicholl

In March, anticipating the inevitable closure of museums for at least part of the tourist season in light of the incoming Coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the NLHF cancelled all pending bids in order to be able to provide relief funding. While entirely understandable for the good of the heritage sector as a whole, this development was a major setback for our redevelopment plans! A number of other large potential funding bodies followed suit by adapting to concentrate on helping sustain museums through the pandemic or, sadly, withdrawing funding altogether.

The Museum itself was ultimately able to open for a reduced season between August-October after benefitting from Museums Galleries Scotland emergency funding to install measures to reduce the risk of infection for staff and visitors, including screens, signage and a new socially-distanced route around the exhibitions.

Overall limited progress could be made with the redevelopment through most of 2020, partly because of the lack of funding available to proceed with the design phase of the project, and partly because our Redevelopment Manager was put on the government’s furlough scheme to conserve the Museum’s resources. With the redevelopment stalled and visitor figures and revenue for the year reduced by 50%, all at the Museum were keen to see the back of 2020…

…so what of 2021?

We were given a boost in November with the news from NLHF that their Grants for Heritage fund of £250k - £5m would be reopening for submissions from February 2021. For the first time since March we felt the project could soon be back in business!

In anticipation of detailed guidance being released in early Feb we are currently re-assessing our project based on the priorities NLHF have released so far. We know precedence will be given to projects which;

· Boost the local economy

· Provide job creation and encourage skills development

· Support health and wellbeing

· Encourage rebuilding community cohesion

· Demonstrate building long-term environmental sustainability and long-term inclusion

This is an encouraging sign - our existing project has in large part been built around sustainability, providing community services and contributing to the local economy so *hopefully* it should be relatively straightforward for us to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

Our Redevelopment Manager was interviewed recently by a History and Journalism student from the University of Strathclyde about how museums have responded to Coronavirus and how Glencoe Museum’s redevelopment has been affected. His final question was ‘Is there any hope of the project still going forward?’, to which the answer could only be an emphatic ‘Yes!’

Watch this space.

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