£184,687 for the new look West Berkshire Museum

The new look West Berkshire MuseumWest Berkshire Museum has reopened its doors after nearly four years, with the help of £184,687 in grants from the Trust.

The funding from the Trust for the refurbishment of the museum and the preservation of its two historic buildings came in the form of two grants in 2012 and 2014 totalling £181,696. A further £2,991 was paid in matched funding for public donations on the Trust's fundraising website www.findmeagrant.org.

West Berkshire Executive Councillor, Hilary Cole, said: “Although the bulk of the funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a big thank you is due to Greenham Trust for their generous contribution of more than £180,000, and to the Headley Trust for their £40,000. Many thanks, too, to the museum ‘Friends’ who raised contributions from the Englefield Charitable Trust, the Gerald Palmer Eling Trust, the Sackler Trust, and the Colefax Trust. Newbury Building Society also contributed £150."

West Berkshire Council says it is delighted at public reaction to the new museum.  Opening for a 'soft launch' on August bank holiday, it had 1,541 visitors in its first week, and there has been a steady flow since then.

WWI exhibitionThe historic cloth hall and corn stores, in which the museum is housed, have been restored and linked by a new building, allowing not only the total exhibition area to increase by a third but also a complete refurbishment of the display space as well as improved visitor facilities and children's activities. Staff have also been working on the learning opportunities that the new museum creates for local schools.

In preparation for the opening, volunteers checked and packed almost 20,000 artifacts.  The displays in the ten new 'Story Stores' will be change every few months so that the museum's collections will be used to their full potential.

The aim has been to create a museum which encourages visitors to discover the past, engage with the present and think about the future of West Berkshire. And reaction so far suggests this has indeed been achieved. Comments posted online include: 'It feels like a real community museum', 'It seems that every penny has been wisely spent', 'Great museum and building', and 'History in style! We like what they've done with the museum - well worth a drop in to look around.'

Local historyThe Trust's Chris Boulton, said: "The Trust is delighted to have helped with this sympathetic integration of the old and the new and to have helped West Berkshire Museum offer local people the chance to see exhibits not only from all over the world, but also from the local area."