Exeter museum's past removed for the present

PUBLISHED: 13:08 29 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:24 10 June 2010

Tuesday, July 29 - EXETER'S ambitious plans to bring the Royal Albert Memorial Museum into the 21st century will take a step back in time tomorrow.

EXETER'S ambitious plans to bring the Royal Albert Memorial Museum into the 21st century will take a step back in time tomorrow.

A vital link with the museum's past is to be removed for safe keeping tomorrow while construction work on the £15 million project continues.

On Wednesday July 30 Exeter City Council's lead councillor for environment and leisure, Cllr Kevin Mitchell and Tony Richardson from the Heritage Lottery Fund will oversee the removal of an engraved commemorative stone following the demolition of the conservation laboratories at the rear of the Museum.

The inscription on the stone reads:

This stone was laid on Monday March 16th 1891 by Charles Edwin Ware Esquire, Mayor of Exeter, in commemoration of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria 1887.

The stone was laid when a laboratory and lecture room were built at RAMM for Exeter's School of Science.

By 1911 the school had become the Royal Albert Memorial College and had outgrown its rooms at RAMM.

It moved into Bradninch Place just behind the museum, now the home of Exeter Phoenix.

The college became the University College of the South West of England and subsequently the University of Exeter.

The School of Arts moved into the vacated rooms using them as a pottery and sculpture studio, and when the Art College moved out they became the Museum's conservation laboratory.

The stone will be taken to RAMM's off-site store and be stored and cared for with the city's collection.

The buildings at the rear of RAMM have been demolished to make way for the construction of a new exhibition gallery, a second museum entrance and access onto the city wall. The new gallery will allow RAMM to bring major national touring exhibitions to the South West and the new entrance will provide access to the museum from the gardens.

This work is part of a major development project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Exeter City Council and a number of charities and institutions.

Since the building closed in December 2007, the city's collections have been taken away for safe storage, the inside fittings have been stripped out and the galleries that were built over a Norman defensive trench have been underpinned to stop subsidence.

This ambitious project will provide Exeter with a museum fit for the 21st century, revealing the original museum spaces, redisplaying the city's collections, providing a new learning suite, a new temporary exhibition gallery and a new entrance and shop. The new RAMM opens in 2010.

Councillor Kevin Mitchell said: "Exeter City Council is proud to mark another milestone in Exeter's cultural development.

"When the Royal Albert Memorial Museum was built, it was home to our museum, library, school of art and school of science.

"Today we are removing a foundation stone that symbolises the joint birth of several treasured institutions and in doing so we are also laying a new foundation for a museum service for the 21st century."

Julie Cooper, Head of HLF South West, said: "The Royal Albert Memorial Museum is of huge regional significance. The museum's collections provide a wonderful insight into the rich, natural and cultural heritage of the South West region. Through redesigning the galleries and improving access to the museum, this project will dramatically improve opportunities for visitors to learn about and enjoy the collections. This grant will create lasting benefit to the local community - both now and for generations to come.

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