Lottery Boost For Rotunda Museum Renovation

By David Prudames | 03 December 2004
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Shows a photograph of a view inside the Rotunda Museum. The image looks up at a spiral staircase, above which is a curved section of wall containing a geological diagram.

The Rotunda Museum is one of the oldest purpose-built museums still in use in the UK. Courtesy Scarborough Borough Council.

Plans to restore and refurbish Scarborough’s Grade II* listed Rotunda Museum have been given a £1.8 million boost by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

As reported by the 24 Hour Museum back in July, Scarborough Borough Council applied for just under £2 million in order to fund its plans to return the institution to its original role as a geological showcase.

Supported by English Heritage, the project is designed to make the museum a gateway to the area’s dinosaur coast and includes creating a new entrance and installing a lift to improve disabled access.

It will also act as a tribute to the Rotunda's designer, the so-called father of English Geology, William Smith.

The HLF has now given the council a Stage One pass, earmarking £1.8 million for the project and awarding it a £120,000 development grant.

Shows a black and white photograph of the Rotunda interior as it used to be. There is a spiral staircase on the far side with curved display cases on the floor below.

Inside the Rotunda in the 19th century. Courtesy Scarborough Borough Council.

"The restored museum will offer an enjoyable and educational experience for all," said Lord Derwent, Chairman of the Scarborough Museums Trust, "from academics to our very young visitors, as well as providing a gateway to Yorkshire’s fascinating dinosaur coast."

Opened in 1829, the Rotunda Museum was built to house geological specimens and is one of the earliest purpose-built museums still in use today.

It was designed by William Smith, whose identification and mapping of the strata won him the Geological Society’s first Wollaston medal and paved the way for oil and mineral extraction.

Once the refurbishment and restoration work is finished, the Rotunda will more closely adhere to Smith’s original intention.

Shows a photograph of the ceiling of the Rotunda Museum. At the centre there is a skylight.

The Yorkshire coastline is one of the best locations for dinosaur hunters in the country and the newly refurbished Rotunda will help visitors explore it. Courtesy Scarborough Borough Council.

Furthermore, as well as exhibiting current geological knowledge and research, it will also pay tribute to its founder with showcases of his work.

It will also include a dinosaur coast visitor centre, intended to act as a gateway for exploring the area’s exceptional geological heritage.

"Much hard work has gone into the proposals for renovating the Rotunda Museum with considerable thought paid to achieving the delicate balance between conservation and facilitating access for all," added Lord Derwent.

The HLF pledge, he added, "sets us on course to achieve our vision of returning the museum to its original role as a celebration of William Smith’s pioneering geological work that laid the foundation of modern methods of exploration in the oil and mining industries."

Shows a black and white photograph of the exterior of the Rotunda. There is a man leading a horse and cart in the foreground.

For over 180 years, the Rotunda has been one of Scarborough's most recognisable buildings. Courtesy Scarborough Borough Council.

Scarborough Borough Council, in conjunction with the newly formed Museums Trust, now has 12 months to submit detailed architectural and design plans to the HLF, which will hopefully take the project to stage two.

This means finalising plans to restore the museum to its original state, continuing William Smith’s vision of an institution at the cutting edge of science.

"We are delighted to support this project as the Rotunda Museum is such an important resource regionally and nationally," said Ian Carstairs, HLF Regional Committee Chair for Yorkshire and the Humber.

"It is wonderful that local people’s money is coming back to Scarborough to support this site of national importance and help the regeneration of Scarborough. We look forward to working with Scarborough Borough Council as they prepare the stage two application."

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