Putting a museum, gallery, library and archive under the same roof sounds sensible, but there are very few places in the UK where this has been tried.
Building work has begun on the Treasure House, a vast new museum in the town of Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Costing £5.7 million, the Treasure House will provide the East Riding with a complete history and culture centre, combining a museum, gallery, library and archive all under one roof.
Developed by the local council, the new building will be physically connected to the town’s original library and art gallery, which was built by local businessman Thomas Champney in 1906.
Fittingly the project is set to be completed in April 2006, during the centenary year of the public opening of the original building.
"The Treasure House is an exciting project and will be an excellent facility that raises the East Riding’s regional and national profile," said Cllr Stephen Parnaby, Leader of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
"It will result in a first class centre to preserve, display and celebrate the East Riding’s rich history and culture."
Several years in the planning, the new building has been the subject of detailed consultations with bodies such as Beverley Town Council, Beverley Civic Society, English Heritage and the Royal Fine Arts Commission.
Its design was carefully considered so as to ensure it would be in keeping with the historic area around it. But in every other respect it will be state of the art and make the most of modern technology.
With a new entrance for the whole facility and lifts to upper floors, there will be disabled access to the art gallery for the very first time.
A vast reading room for archives and local studies library users will be joined by a purpose built repository block for archives, local studies collections, the museum’s social history collections and a conservation workshop.
A permanent interactive display will explore the history of the East Riding from archaeological remains to historic town maps, oral histories and photographs.
It will also act as a base for volunteer organisations, as well as professional historians and archivists, working to create multimedia archives of local heritage, be it recording a service in a Methodist Chapel or the sound of reeds on the banks of the Humber.
There will also be a space for temporary exhibitions, an audio-visual room and an education room.
As Nial Adams, Principle Museums Officer at East Riding of Yorkshire County Council, told the 24 Hour Museum the centre is about allowing the people of the area a chance to respond to and record their own heritage as well as have access to it.
"It really is breaking down the boundaries from the old idea that there are qualified curators like me doing it all," he said. "It’s now about whatever level people are working at."
The Treasure House will also form an ICT heritage hub for archives, local studies and museums collections throughout the region.
Using the very latest cataloguing software, information on the entire collection will be accessible on site, via the Internet and via the People’s Network in branch and mobile libraries throughout the area.
As well creating a physical institution for people to visit, the idea behind the Treasure House is for it to reach out to the entire population of the East Riding.
The project has been made possible thanks to a £3,919,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
"One of HLF’s priorities is to ensure that our heritage is opened up to everyone and this project is leading the way in offering access to all," explained HLF Regional Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber, Fiona Spears.
"It is wonderful that work will now start on the construction of the Treasure House which will ensure that local heritage will be housed in the optimum conditions for conservation, also providing access and outreach services to the local community for generations to come."