Cash could provide lifeline for Lancashire’s under-threat museums

The Museum of Lancashire, Stanley Street, Preston
The Museum of Lancashire, Stanley Street, Preston
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Five museums threatened with closure have been thrown a potential lifeline after the Arts Council for England granted a £162,000 cash injection to support the hunt for new owners to take them over.

The county council’s dire finances means Preston’s Museum of Lancashire, Lancaster’s Judges’ Lodgings, Fleetwood Museum, Helmshore Mills and Burnley’s Queen Street Mill are to close this September.

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The closures were announced as part of swathing cuts to services as the authority balances its books to cope with a £56m shortfall in 2018/19.

The £30m Museum Resilience fund, which aims to support museums to become more sustainable and resilient, agreed to support a project to ensure the smooth transition of the five sites to potential new owners.

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John Orna-Ornstein, director of Museums at Arts Council England, said: “The focus of our investment approach for museums in 2015-18 is on building a more resilient sector. The Museum Resilience fund is a key part of that, providing vital support to museums right across the country.

“The fund responds directly to the challenges facing museums like those in Lancashire and Kirklees, and also supports major strategic initiatives such as the Museums Association’s Transformers programme.”

The project, christened ‘Waving not drowning’, is described as a “strategic plan for Lancashire’s museums.

Today County Coun Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “This is obviously really good news.

“It will be used to provide a tailored package of support to the potential new operators of the museums when they take them over, to give them the best possible chance of success.”