Museum could be consigned to history

CRAIGAVON Museum could be consigned to the history books.

Proposals are being considered by council which could see time called on Waterside House and its collection divided up amongst other local museums.

Craigavon Historical Society have pleaded with council to show respect for the area’s heritage. Craigavon Council said Museum Services will continue to exist, but that options were being considered to reduce running costs within the department.

The ‘MAIL’ has learnt that the annual budget for Museum Services is £151,000.

As well as the under threat Waterside House this includes Moneypenny’s Lockhouse and Barn Museum which are to be retained.

A ‘MAIL’ source said no jobs are expected to be lost if Craigavon Museum at Waterside House was to close and savings will be made only by way of utility bills and maintenance.

In a letter to Aldermen and Councillors of Craigavon Borough Council, Rosalind Hadden, Chair of Craigavon Historical Society, said: “Any council seeking city status would be expected to have a museum as part of its community provision.

“The museum service has never been a significant drain on the council’s budget and in comparison with other local museums it remains very good value for money.”

Craigavon Historical Society was formed 45 years ago as Craigavon started to develop as a new city. They formed because they felt Craigavon’s heritage was under threat. For the same reason they are now fighting to retain Craigavon Museum, which was initiated 25 years ago by the society and funded for that period by council.

Rosalind added: “Looked at in perspective it can hardly be right that hundreds of years of heritage and history should be totally prejudiced by a hasty reaction to the current economic climate.”

Chairman of the Museum Committee is Brian Cassells OBE, who was instrumental in the establishment of a museum here.

He said: “The review carried out into council services compared the museum to leisure services.

“The museum is a cultural and academic function and is never going to attract the same footfall as leisure services.

“Any review carried out under that auspice is fundamentally flawed.

“It took five years to get the museum accredited and we’re going to lose that for the sake of savings on heat and light.”

Among the more valued exhibits at Craigavon Museum are a collection of Methodist books, a Quaker book collection and a 100-year-old sand barge recently installed outside Waterside House.

Brian said: “Our aspiration had been to make the museum more specialised as a Waterways Museum. That’s what the barge was for. What happens to the barge that was kindly donated? And what happens to the books that have been donated? Do we hand them back? How would that look?”

He concluded: “It would be catastrophic to lose one of the finest academic research facilities within the borough.”

Council emphasised Museum Services will still exist for the enjoyment of the Craigavon public and beyond. A spokesperson said: “As part of a council-wide review of services designed to keep the rates as low as possible, councillors are carefully considering a number of museum options with a view to reduce running costs and make the service more customer focused, however no decision has been made at this time.

“Council would like to re-iterate that any decisions made regarding Craigavon Museum Services will still ensure that this facility continues to be one that can be enjoyed by all the community.”