Birmingham Museum Trust

Birmingham Museums Trust set to build new collections and cultural centre

Images: Indicative concept visuals courtesy of Associated Architects

The new facility is the first phase of a wider plan, which includes redeveloping Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) as a new museum for Birmingham, which will see it close for three years

The proposed new collections and cultural centre, scheduled to open in 2021, will become the headquarters for the trust in the east of the city, roughly five miles from BMAG, and will see collections, back office, curatorial, conservation and technical teams, currently located at the museum, relocated as the redevelopment of the museum begins.

Proposals for the plot, which will include a new centre for heritage, community arts, learning and skills development led by Birmingham Museums Trust, have been approved for regeneration by Birmingham City Council. It now subject to a three day call in period, which means the agreement could be called in for further discussion during that time.

The plans will transform the site in Yardley, which formerly housed a shopping centre, and the trust says it will offer ‘a completely new type of cultural proposition to engage and inspire new audiences’. This includes a proposed publicly accessible storage facility to house the city’s internationally important museum collection.

Proposals include a publicly accessible storage facility to house the city’s internationally important museum collection.

Ellen McAdam, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust, said the museum team know of no other cultural facility of comparable ambition, scope or scale in the UK or internationally, and this is a very exciting time as our plans gather pace.

“We are committed to rethinking the way we use this great collection for the benefit of this city’s young, super-diverse citizens,” she said. “Working with residents in the local area, we are determined to transform the site into an ambitious centre which pushes boundaries, and brings together expertise from across the city to inspire and open up opportunities for the people of Birmingham.”

Throughout the year Birmingham Museums Trust has been consulting with local people to ensure their feedback informs the development of the plans. Consultations will continue so the project team can work with residents to create flexible community spaces that will benefit generations to come. This consultation has led to proposals for community spaces such as a café, homework zone and meeting rooms. Birmingham Museums says it will also offer a programme of events and activities including school visits, store tours, performances and skills development opportunities.

The proposed new centre, in collaboration with partners, ‘will bring fresh training and volunteer opportunities, as well as the prospect of some new jobs’ it says. The Trust has already operated a successful career programme supporting young people from across the city to pursue careers in the arts, culture and STEM. As an extension to this Birmingham Museums will bring apprenticeships and other training offers to the new centre, including educational opportunities for local schools in the area and across the city.

The Trust launched a £40 million fundraising appeal in December 2017 to redevelop the museum and create the new cultural collections centre. The new museum will offer better visitor experiences by improving accessibility, creating a new children’s museum, a community gallery, a larger learning suite, a restaurant with direct street access, more retail capacity and a dedicated conference and events space.

It plans to secure funding in a number of ways including applications to the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and Heritage Lottery Fund. Retail and housing space will also form part of the plans to create a multi-use facility.

Quick fire Questions Answered

Will Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) be moving?

No, when BMAG opens after redevelopment it will occupy the same building in the city centre.

At the same time as BMAG is being redeveloped, we will create a separate centre at the closed Pool Way shopping centre site on Meadway in Yardley. This will be the primary museum object storage facility and headquarters for Birmingham Museums back office, technical and conservation staff. It will also be an exciting new cultural centre for East Birmingham.

When will BMAG close and reopen?

Based on current plans BMAG will be closing in late 2019. Some galleries will be completed in time to reopen the museum in 2022 for the Commonwealth Games.

Why does BMAG need to close for three years?

Birmingham City Council own the buildings which currently house BMAG and the Council House. They have identified the need for essential major modernisation works including replacing all of the electrical wiring, plumbing, lifts, lighting, humidity and temperature controls.

This is a huge project and the only realistic and safe way to do so is to close the entire building complex to the public. Birmingham Museums Trust is using the closure as an opportunity to redevelop and improve the museum. We want to ensure this much loved institution can be visited and appreciated by many generations to come.

We will bring the Grade II* listed museum building back to its former glory, at the same time making it fit for the 21st century.

Will the new BMAG lose space?

As part of the council’s wider plans for the complex, BMAG will lose some of its current floor space, but will also gain other sections of the buildings. The majority of the space which will be lost is currently used by back office staff and is not accessible to the public.

The historic interior of the building and period features will not be affected, and in many cases will be restored and improved.

Many of you will have had trouble finding your way around the current museum and we will address this by reconfiguring the interior spaces to vastly improve navigation and accessibility. Access into the building will also be improved.

Will BMAG charge when it reopens?

There are no plans to charge entry fees.

Who is funding this?

Birmingham Museums Trust is an independent charity which manages the city’s museum collection and venues. We are applying for grants from public sources, trusts and foundations and will be launching a fundraising campaign.

What’s happening to the collections currently on display at BMAG?

Plans are in development to display some of the treasures of the collection at other Birmingham Museums sites, as well as other locations across the city. We will keep you updated.