Opening Up The Soane: World’s Best House-Museum Benefits from Heritage Grant
Sir John Soane’s Museum, an architectural treasury described by experts as “the best house-museum in the world”, has been awarded £813,000 for its ‘Opening up the Soane’ project by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project, which will cost £7 million, will deliver a 33% increase in visitor capacity - essential because visitor numbers are rising every year and now stand at over 100,000. ‘Opening up the Soane’ will enable the Museum to open two extra public floors; one whole floor comprising Sir John Soane’s richly furnished Private Apartments (not seen since his death in 1837) and his original Model Room containing the largest collection of historical architectural models in the UK. Another floor provides a new Exhibition Gallery for the display of drawings and other objects from the Museum’s large ‘hidden’ collections.
Lift access will be provided to all public floors for disabled people – almost a 100% improvement in this Grade 1 listed building. Crowding and wear and tear is being tackled by creating new visitor reception arrangements and improving the circulation routes around the Museum. Then there are other surprises in store – Soane’s original Catacomb, his ante-room piled high with historic artefacts and the Tivoli recess (London’s first, albeit tiny, gallery of contemporary sculpture) are all to be restored to Sir John’s original designs.
But it’s not all about Soane’s architecture and his valuable and varied collections: the Museum plans a well-organised outreach programme to new audiences in partnership with local groups (building on its highly successful education outreach), an oral history programme to capture the memories of all who know and cherish the Museum and a major volunteer scheme. Expansion of the conservation facilities will enable people to see and understand the importance of conserving the Museum’s collections.
Tim Knox, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, says: ‘The grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund is good news and just in time to help us turn the corner in raising the £7 million we need for Opening up the Soane. Fundraising is not easy in these difficult economic times but this generous grant means we are on the last lap towards our target.“
“‘Opening up the Soane’ will not only enable us to welcome many more visitors to experience the unique atmosphere of this ‘museum of museums’ but will enable us to do far more to preserve it for future generations. The HLF award demonstrates to everyone that this is a priority project and we hope that it will encourage some major donors, trusts and foundations to join those who have already taken the lead – and to whom we express our gratitude – in supporting the project.
“It’s really important that we keep up the momentum and start the project on time so we can deliver all the wonderful improvements. If all goes well we can open the new Gallery with a magnificent exhibition of architect’s drawings of Stadia – from the Roman Colosseum to the new Olympic facilities at Stratford – in the year of the London Olympics and Paralympics.