Museum rethink

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The Traditional Heritage Museum has been closed to the public by the University of Sheffield for more than a year. Its collections remain intact, but inaccessible to the public.

Apparently, the university also quietly allowed the national Centre for English Cultural Tradition, of which the Museum formed an important part, to be run down and disappear.

The supposed cost of refurbishing the museum, estimated at £500,000, is minimal in comparison with the £36 million spent on the Arts Tower and the University’s current budget surplus of £30 million.

The university declined to bid for external funding for the refurbishment, even though the Friends of the Museum were informed that a bid would be very likely to receive support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, among other potential sponsors.

A local businessman has generously offered to provide storage for the museum’s collections, but the building remains closed to the Friends who have run it voluntarily for almost 50 years.

The museum is an asset to the university as a teaching and research resource, particularly in the requirement for all universities to preserve cultural heritage, to promote regional communities and their cultural and learning industries and to maintain outreach programmes for schools, to which the university is supposedly committed. It is also a great asset to the local community and its loss will be irreparable.

As a born and bred Sheffielder, on behalf to the Friends and supporters of the museum, and of all who value their heritage, I urge the university to reconsider its decision. I ask everyone who is proud of our city to follow the lead of such champions of our local heritage as Ken Hawley and Don Alexander, in campaigning against the closure, so this unique record of life and work in Sheffield can secure the essential financial support to be preserved and made available for the benefit of the community today and for future generations.

John Widdowson, founder curator, Traditional Heritage Museum