St Albans Museum and Gallery opens to the public
- Credit: Picture: CALLUM ALLCOCK-GREEN
The £7.75 million new museum and gallery has officially opened following a two-year restoration of St Albans’s Georgian Town Hall.
The museum is free for all visitors, and aims to showcase more than 2,000 years of heritage from St Albans and around the world, as well as hosting art exhibitions.
St Albans council provided £3.3million to restore the Grade II* listed Town Hall and create a new cultural attraction in the city, in addition to a £2.8 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The museum is set over three floors, with restored historic spaces such as the octagonal courtroom and prison cells, as well as newly-created galleries. Glazed links have been added to the first floor, enabling visitors to walk around the building, and the new gallery spaces will host regularly changing exhibitions and events.
A basement gallery was excavated under the building to host national touring exhibitions and contemporary art shows, and the ground floor now features a gift shop, learning studio, visitor information point and cafe.
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Permanent displays in the museum tell the story of the district’s development from the pre-Roman era through to the modern day. Visitors will also be able to learn more about famous figures from St Albans’s history, from Sir Francis Bacon to Professor Stephen Hawking.
Currently on display is the museum’s flagship exhibition, ‘First Impressions’, which explores the history of the city’s printing industry. Another opening exhibition, ‘Accumulate’, will present artwork created by Lyndall Phelps, Abi Spendlove and Katie Gillam-Hull.
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Artist Susie MacMurray, who has a reputation for creating interventions in historic spaces, will exhibit a range of sculptures, including a specially-commissioned intervention in the museum’s Assembly Room.
In addition to the council and HLF funding, the museum was made possible thanks to a local community fundraising campaign, which contributed £400,000, as well as donations from individuals and organisations.
Richard Shwe, deputy chief executive (commercial and development) at St Albans council, said: “It has taken years of planning and hard work to transform the beautiful old Town Hall right in the heart of the city into an amazing museum and gallery.”