From The Murky Depths

News in London and beyond

Woolwich

Greenwich Heritage Centre announces sudden closure. What next?

Heritage Centre is on right

The museum and archive of Greenwich borough has announced a closure this month – apparently out of the blue.

Local groups and politicians on both Tory and Labour benches seem mystified over the sudden closure and concern over what happens next.

Those who’ve lived in the area a long time may remember the former Borough Museum was located upstairs in Plumstead library in a dusty Victorian space which has been closed to the public ever since it moved to Woolwich. That will now become a cafe as part of Plumstead library’s upgrade.

Creative District

Future Creative District site

It’s being sold as a great step forward with a move to a new site as part of the development of a Creative District yet there’s no specifics on dates or locations, and some are worried. And what happens to the collection and archive in the interim?

Currently anyone can show up and look back over numerous public records and newspapers stretching back decades. It’s a real treasure trove and a serves a huge public good.

Redevelopment could be fantastic though the sudden announcement and lack of detail is odd. Here’s hoping answers are coming soon.

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8 Comments

  1. Mary

    Co-incidentally to this a group of Greenwich people had begun a campaign to get some sort of museum about Greenwich (as in Greenwich) in the now vacant Borough Hall. The hall is the last remaining bit of Greenwich’s Civic past (the rest was flogged off by Woolwich in the 1970s). We also feel that Greenwich needs to be noted as a place in its own right and not just as a historical adjunct to Tudor royalty and the Navy.
    The news of the closure of the heritage centre is not good – but it has never been that wonderful (sorry Tracy). The research faciltiies aren’t a patch on what the borough had at Woodlands and there seems to be no interaction with the many local history societies – or indeed the many researchers. It is also too far from public transport and too long a walk for elderly family historians who are the bedrock of its customers. It ignores and does not sell important new books by local authors (most shamefully Greenwich Revealed) Events seem focussed on Woolwich and the Artillery – with events for children – nothing wrong with that but with so much going on in the borough we need something more diverse and perhaps a bit more upmarket
    Perhaps this all needs a big rethink which involves the huge and mainly ignored community sector and which looks at ALL of the Borough.
    In fact the Borough Hall – big, near good transport and with 10000000s of eager paying visitors would be ideal.

    • Eileen Taylor

      Thank you Mary for this news. I feel very angry that the Local History Museum is closing and we didn’t hear or read about it.

  2. Chris Nash

    I’m a little confused. The poster and tweet say “Don’t worry we will be back soon” and indicates that it’s a short-term closure for redevelopment. Why is this article written as if they’d announced that it was permanently closing? Surely the right thing to do would be to reach out to the museum’s management directly and ask for clarification, rather than immediately start doomsaying?

    • fromthemurkydepths

      It’s not saying it’s a permanent closure but the manner is odd. Announced shortly before closure with no info on a temp location, length of closure or future site and access to the archive. That’s what has concerned many across political spectrum. It’s out of the blue. It’s pretty certain it will reopen but in 1 year or 5? They haven’t given answers.

      • Chris Nash

        Those are fair points – the full article on the museum’s website (https://www.greenwichheritage.org/news/story/flying-the-nest-but-well-be-back-soon) doesn’t give details about length of closure or temporary site etc., but what it does have is a quote from Cllr. Danny Thorpe – so it’s clear that this *was* a decision that was known about by Greenwich Council. Perhaps Cllr. Fahy should consult with his colleagues before tweeting about “shameful decisions”?

        Further to my point above, has anyone contacted Tracy Stringfellow for a comment on the situation? It would provide more balance to the article if effort had been made to get both sides of the story.

  3. anonymous201486

    I was in Woolwich only last weekend and happened upon the centre by pure chance. Glad I made the point of going in now.

  4. Mavis

    Access to the museums has been a disgrace, only open Monday to Friday 9-5, and not public holidays. Don’t know anywhere else nowadays that keep these hours. Commercial viability must be an issue.

  5. Digger

    Cultural philistinism at its worst, an appalling decision. The museum and archive collections are I believe registered with the successors to the MLAC (the abolition of which itself in 2010 was an act of cultural vandalism) and secure, fireproof, environmentally conditioned storage was created at considerable expense just 15 years ago to keep secure for future generations the documents, images, works of art, cultural items and historical objects that the Council had collected over several years. Now it seems that this important collection is to be trundled out of its temperature and humidity controlled environment, from its secure, environmentally stable and highly fireproof home, wheelbarrowed across the quad and dumped in damp, insecure, derelict and unused spaces at risk of pests and vermin, theft, fire and serious damage.

    To replace the rolling-stack storage facility alone – which requires a ground floor that can take a high structural load – is prohibitively expensive, let alone the costs for a full environmental conditioning system to maintain the collection to the required national standards.

    The Council also holds the archaeological archive (the ‘finds’) from several important past archaelogical investigations – not least of which are the Bellarmines excavated from the Woolwich Stoneware kiln, which have been described as ‘unique’ and ‘important’ by the British Museum.

    The proposals as they stand are sheer civic vandalism. I encourage all concerned to scrutinise this decision to the last farthing – there are searching questions to be answered on care and custody of the collections, funding for creation of a new store of equivalent specification, the legal requirements of the original lease granted to the Council which specified the use of the space as a public museum and archive for, I believe, 999 years.

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