Our June meeting on the subject of the redevelopment of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum was particularly interesting but unfortunately was held on one of the many wet evenings recently and therefore the attendance was what must have been our lowest ever. Our speaker was Camilla Hampshire the Museum Manager.
We were given an insight into the history of the original building which was built by public subscription in five phases and the typical Victorian Gothic style frontage to Queen Street is listed grade two. The interior and the rear was almost a Heath Robinson layout – a complex deep building which even had an open interior courtyard which the public would never have known existed. Also the building was in un-matching blocks and we were shown a view of this on the screen together with a view of the huge structural crack over the Norman ditch which was such a problem for the redevelopers.The clocks gallery stretched across the ditch and was holding the building up. Signs of Roman quarrying was found where a new lift is now located.
Before the redevelopment could start over one million objects had to be listed before transfer to an off site temporary store by an in-house team. The only objects for which a specialist outside team had to be used for the transfer was Gerald the giraffe and also the elephant. Camilla said that if anything had gone wrong with the move of Gerald in particular she would have had to take a very fast car out of the City! A reserve collection of items is still held at a secret location.
The new extension onto the back of the building was fabricated in Austria and arrived on site in three huge lorries within three minutes of the promised arrival time!
We learnt that the Museum can still make new acquisitions and that 25% of the cost has to be raised locally before a 75% Grant aid is available. On this basis a fine Richard Cosway miniature has recently been obtained.
Finally we were told that RAMM had been placed in the top four Museums for the competition for Museum of the year. The prize for the Museum placed first was £100,000, and as we should all now know RAMM won this competition!